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Tribal and Human Values

Thomas Kochuthara
Thomas Kochuthara Author Interview

Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India provides readers with an in-depth exploration of Indian tribes and Christianity. Why was this an important book for you to write?

The north eastern region of India comprising of seven states, covering the sub-Himalayan mountain ranges, has seen waves of migration from time immemorial. It exhibits a plurality of cultures, races, languages and religions and is one of the most unique and romantic places. I lived there for fifteen years and thus had the opportunity to visit the places and have contact with people. My appreciation for their social, cultural and religious life and the way they led their political and economic struggles and faced the challenges and threats from the natural forces, prompted me to write the book to convey relevant messages to modern man.

What were some key aspects of tribal societies that were important for you to include in this book?

Their loyalty and faithfulness to the tribal traditions and way of life, their struggles to keep up their tribal identity in spite of modernization, their desire for imparting education to their children, their involvement in the struggles for obtaining political statehood on tribal basis, gender equality, higher status of women in some tribes as an inspiration for women liberation, absence of any caste system found in many major population groups in India, their love for singing and dancing etc., are some of the important aspects included in the book.

What kind of research did you undertake to complete this book?

It is a descriptive and analytic research that I have followed in this work. I have given a clear and precise picture of the seven states in the north eastern region of India, their topographical and geographical details, the tribal people inhabiting the states, their cultural, social, religious and political life, the struggles for the formation of the different states and the scope and challenges in the economic and agricultural fields. I have also analysed various aspects of their socio- cultural life and advances in education and political consciousness and I have made theological reflections in the light of these.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

The one thing, I hope, the readers will take away from the book is their high sense of tribal and human values, characterised by sincerity, openness, simplicity, solidarity with fellow human beings and concern for the poor and the weak.

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The north-eastern region of India comprising of the seven states known as the ‘Seven Sisters’ represents an area of enormous ecological, geographical and ethnical diversity. This region which is inhabited by 166 diverse tribes is blessed with dense and lush green forests, hills and valleys, rich flora and fauna, and holds immense mineral and power resources. Its passes and valleys have witnessed centuries of migration and served as a gateway of commerce and culture. The North East has a plurality of races, religions, cultures, languages and dialects, making it one of the most diverse and picturesque regions of India. Ending its isolation, this region has come into the main stream of national life through the educational and modernization process set in motion in the region chiefly by Christian missionaries. The region has also over the years been through much unrest and turmoil. With growing awareness, people have also been demanding a greater share in the achievements of the nation. But often their aspirations are met only partially, and the dissatisfaction with the poor development of the region and the absence of adequate opportunities prompt the younger generations to adopt what often turn out to be unconstitutional and militant ways to end exploitation and domination, culminating in much violence and bloodshed, throwing the entire region into turmoil. As Christianity has much influence on the life of the people here, it is its responsibility to take seriously the situation of insurgency and militancy that directly affect the people’s aspirations for an authentic, dignified and peaceful life. In order to enable the Church to respond adequately to this situation, it is essential that a suitable theology emerge in the multicultural and plurireligious context of the North East. Such a theology will not be limited to that region, but will have consequences also for dealing with several problems affecting the universal Church. The present study is undertaken with a view to examining the features of the theology that will emerge in the north-eastern context, and also its impact on universal theology. The North East of India can exert tremendous influence on the debates on current theological issues and can pave the way for the emergence of a Church with truly indigenous features.

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The King of Beasts

Michael A Bortner
Michael A Bortner Author Interview

Battle Carried examines the history and meaning of tiger imagery of good luck flags in Japanese culture. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Battle Carried was important for me to write because it took into consideration two primary subjects that I had been passionate about since childhood: Japanese good luck flags and the tiger. Growing up, I had a fascination for flags; I drew and colored them and hung them on my bedroom walls. The more colorful the banner, the more I wanted to learn about it. At the time, the young student in me enjoyed learning about the histories of the nations that each flag represented. Flags and military history go hand-in-hand. I often thought how those colorful pieces of cloth could inspire ordinary men to accomplish extraordinary acts of courage in battle.

My interest in tigers was a little more straightforward. As a youngster I thought about pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. My home was an animal menagerie. I was always bringing some kind of pet home, or nursing an injured animal back to health. Based on that interest, I spent quite a lot of time reading about different animals, visiting zoos, etc. The reality for me was that while many people think of the lion as the king of beasts, I was more captivated by the beauty of the orange and black striped tiger. I did not know it at the time, but Asian culture actually celebrates the tiger as the king of the beasts. Years later, when I first heard that there were good luck flags with tigers painted on them, I knew that I wanted to eventually study them. It ended up being a match made in heaven. Battle Carried was a long-awaited outgrowth following the 2008 release of my introductory volume on Japanese good luck flags.

What kind of research did you undertake to complete this book?

I was familiar with doing research in history and anthropology at both an undergraduate and graduate school level. I began my research for Battle Carried by reading whatever I could find on the evolution, migration patterns and demographics of the tiger in Asia. As a student of anthropology, I had also studied Asian religious and philosophical worldviews. I wanted to better understand how and why those relationships came to be encapsulated into the Japanese tiger art good luck flags. Later, I thought that perhaps there was a connection between the animal that I saw in rare wood block prints (ukiyo-e) and those that illustrated the flags. It was fascinating to observe that the styles and poses of tiger art painted on flags during the World War Two era, often appeared to be near exact copies of those created, sometimes a few hundred years earlier. That realization led me to research the early Chinese influences that so heavily affected later Japanese art.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about Imperial Japanese Tiger Art in your research?

In Asian cosmology, the tiger was seen as a divine creature that played a significant role in how those cultures understood the origin, and evolution of the universe. In Taoist art, the tiger was frequently observed representing the “Yin” to the dragon’s “Yang”. When the tiger (tora) was complimented visually with the dragon (ryu), one of the most prolific pairings to illustrate the Japanese Zen Buddhist struggle for enlightenment emerged. With some exceptions, the Japanese embraced the zodiac system of the Chinese. The Tao constructs the world around two forces; They operate within a Yin-Yang relationship. Yin characteristics are composed of water, wind, earth, and are murky in nature. Furthermore, their essence is female, and static. The aspects of Yang incorporate fire, rain, the heavens, and brightness. Their essence is male, and energetic. The elements described may be manifested in the combined Yin-tiger, and the Yang-dragon; the pairing is known to the Japanese as uchu no tora, or “tiger in rain”. Zen Buddhism acknowledges an interplay between these two natures, one that exists throughout the entire universe. The tiger, with its courageous character, is accepted throughout Asia as the most esteemed of all the large wild animals. In pictures it is frequently positioned focused, ready to pounce upon its prey. Similarly, it is often portrayed descending along rocky outcropping, its belly stretched out low, hugging the ground. As a common theme, wind-strained bamboo thickets typically occupy the same image as the growling orange, and black striped beast. The late orientalist, Robert van Gulik wrote that, “In Japan, the tiger portrayed among bamboo stalks in the wind is known as take ni tora, ‘tiger in bamboo’. This representation is generally taken to symbolize that even the most powerful of terrestrial forces, namely the king of all animals, had to yield to the forces of nature. As such, the tiger in the take ni tora representation is also said to be identified with the wind itself, symbolizing as it were, the rustling wind in the bamboo grove.” The English born barrister, and art collector, Marcus Bourne Huish expounded upon this relationship further when he wrote in his 1889 book, Japan and Its Art that the tiger, “…is very often depicted in a storm cowering beneath bamboos, signifying the insignificant power of the mightiest of beasts as compared to that of the elements.” The powerful cat has a tempered force that is evident in its rigid muscles; allowing it comfort in its Yin/earth realm.

The dragon typically shows its force in a more spirited manner. He is often portrayed, surrounded within the heavens by angry rain clouds, and storm energized waters. Projecting himself out of the heavens, the dragon is frequently shown descending toward the earth where his Yang menaces, but does not dominate, the tiger’s Yin. Those two forces, uniformly matched are in balance, as they typify the universe’s harmonious nature.

In writing Battle Carried, I realized that the Yin-Yang relationship is one that all mankind would do better to more fully understand. When we strive to live in balance with the natural environment, the world tends to operate in a more harmonious fashion. Whenever mankind seeks to dominate or control that natural world, harmony is lost and systems break down. In Asian philosophy, the tiger as the king of beasts realizes that fact of life. Hopefully we will use that example to better steer our own destinies as humans.

I loved all the art you used in the book. What is your favorite art piece from this book?

My favorite piece of art is the 1885 woodcut triptych by the artist Koyama Chikusai titled Kato Kiyomasa on the Korean Campaign (p.33). The exploits of the samurai warrior Kato Kiyomasa were legendary among his friends and foe. He was famous, not only for his prowess on the field of battle, but also for his one-on-one fights against the fierce tiger. His fame grew to such an extent that other samurai attempted to elevate their own status by performing similar acts. Apparently enough samurai were being killed by their tiger opponents, that the Japanese leader, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned his officers from taking part in the “sport”!

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

No other animal served to inspire and motivate the Japanese warrior in World War Two more than the magnificent tiger.
From the author of “Imperial Japanese Good Luck Flags and One-Thousand Stitch Belts,” Michael Bortner’s long awaited “Battle Carried” examines World War Two era Imperial Japanese good luck signed flags, featuring artistic renderings of the tiger.
“Battle Carried” examines the history, meaning and cultural context of tiger imagery as it applied to the decoration of good luck flags. Through hundreds of extensive color images and detailed close-ups, as well as woodblock prints and rare vintage photographs, this book superbly illustrates some of the rarest and most highly sought after specimens of tiger art flags, many of which are identified to their soldier, sailor and airmen owners.
“Battle Carried” is an invaluable resource for artists and scholars of Japanese culture, as well as for historians and collectors of flags and Japanese wartime memorabilia.

Battle Carried: Imperial Japanese Tiger Art Good Luck Flags of World War Two

Battle Carried: Imperial Japanese Tiger Art Good Luck Flags of World War Two, by Michael A. Bortner details the history and use of tiger art that decorate Japanese good luck flags found by collectors. Bortner’s aim is to give a deeper understanding on a subject that generated a lot of interest from his book hinomaru yosegaki – Imperial Japanese Good Luck Flags and One-Thousand Stitch Belts.

Bortner’s book has a forward, by Carla L. Funk, which I think is an excellent introduction to Bortner’s book and really helps set the tone for the rest of the book.

Bortner uses a quote at the beginning of each chapter that ties in with the topic of the chapter. Chapters 1 through 5 covers the history of tigers and tiger art in Japan with very detailed information. Chapters 6 through 12 cover the good luck flags. Bortner breaks it down by how the tiger is painted, whether it’s just a head portrait or the tiger is attacking. The last chapter covers smaller good luck cloths and paper amulets. As the title implies, these items were carried into battle by Japanese soldiers of World War II and these types of detail, to me, is what sells the human aspect of this book. I walked away feeling like this was more than just imagery, this is a part of our culture.

Bortner uses some stunning classical art pieces, along with some photographs, to help illustrate the points he makes in each chapter and bring a deeper understanding of the art. He describes each flag in detail bringing out the significance in each piece in a methodical and engaging fashion. This is somewhat of a history book as well as any historical aspects of the flags are also delved into with succinct details that provide some intriguing context for the piece. This information ranges from legends to historical figures to religious figures.

Bortner uses simple language throughout the book which helped me understand a topic steeped in culture and history. This information feels accessible and is easy to follow. The author does a great job of keeping the subject matter succinct and covering only the most interesting parts, which helped to keep me engaged throughout the book.

Battle Carried: Imperial Japanese Tiger Art Good Luck Flags of World War Two, by Michael A. Bortner is a highly informative piece of literature that will serve to educate and entertain anyone that has an interest in Japanese culture, flag collectors, or anyone interested in military history memorabilia.

Pages: 196 | ISBN: 1943492573

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Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India

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Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India by Thomas Kochuthara provides readers with detailed and precise descriptions and narration of North East India’s Christianization. This treatise on anthropology and religion, takes readers through the different tribes’ lives and analyses their relationship with Christianity and the western or “evolved” world. In addition to that, positive aspects like the spread of education and negative aspects like the loss or contamination of tribal identity are analyzed and related to different generations and their point of view. The introduction to the different tribes then leads us through a reflection on the effects of this new religion on the north-eastern population.

Kochutara writes beautifully with long descriptions and his work shows the research and effort behind the pages. This aspect doesn’t usually come out in books, but as we’re talking about a treatise instead of a novel, it is a significant aspect that will show the author’s in-depth research.

As a reader keen on details, I appreciated the abundance of minutiae and the new information given in every paragraph can surely catch the reader’s attention. While I appreciated the details in the book I felt that there was quite a long lists of ancestors and tribes, and I think readers that are not familiar with Sanskrit will have a hard time reading them. In any case, through the course of the book the list of names leaves room for deeper reflections.

However, I appreciated the focus on the single tribes and the detailed narration that accompanied them, making the reader feel almost as part of the tribe itself and most importantly making everyone understand the importance of identity in a tribe.

The detail that makes this book interesting to younger generations is the importance given to current topics, such as gender equality and global warming. These themes represent a connection between the reader and the book, but most importantly between the reader and those tribes whose names might sound distant and unfamiliar.

Christianity and the Tribal Societies of North East India by Thomas Kochuthara provides readers with an in-depth and comprehensive piece of literature on both Indian tribes’ culture and Christianity in general. This is a highly enlightening book that I found to be engaging and informative.

Pages: 492 | ISBN: 9791220104500

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Europa Edizioni

A Unicorn Named Rin

A Unicorn Named Rin is an adventurous children’s story that follows a qilin, a Chinese unicorn, that must help Princess Pingyang find Fan, the royal Phoenix, before the Friendship Concert begins. Rin sets off on a wonderous journey that takes him to many real life locations where he meets many mythical creatures from real Chinese legends.

This is a beautifully illustrated children’s picture book. Every page is covered in bright colors that will surely keep young readers attention. I loved all the creatures that Rin encounters as they were intricately drawn and each helps Rin when he needs it, and lift his spirits when he is down. In the end they all work as a team to find Fan in a clever twist that requires teamwork, a fantastic message for children. This is the most unique children’s book that I’ve read as it combines Chinese culture in every aspect, from myths, to poetry, festivals, and real geographic locations.

This fairy tale is easy to read, with a couple of larger words that will challenge young readers, but with repetition they are sure to pick it up. The message this story delivers is an important one for children to learn, don’t despair, ask for help, and work as a team. I appreciate how all of this is never stated outright, but learned through the story.

A Unicorn Named Rin is a fun and educational picture book that teaches children about Chinese culture as well as building literacy skills. Highly recommended to parents and teachers who are looking to diversity their children’s bookshelf.

Pages: 32 | ISBN: 1913891127

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A Real Awakening

David Joseph
David Joseph Author Interview

The Old Men Who Row Boats and Other Stories is a collection of impassioned short stories that follows various characters through their ordinary yet compelling lives. What were some sources of inspiration for you while writing these stories?

The primary source of inspiration was simply the experience I’ve had living in Spain, getting the opportunity to gain a sense of the history and culture and the people. Place provides such a powerful source of inspiration in general, and I think this only increased when I was immersed so completely in a culture different from the one I had been brought up in. It provided a real awakening of the senses, and I tried to be a keen observer as I worked to craft these stories.

Each of your characters were fascinating in their own way. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you found the characters in these stories interesting. If there is a driving ideal in these characters, I’d like to think that it’s rooted in their simplicity, their humanness, and the realistic nature of their personas. These characters aren’t superhuman or famous or overly powerful. In many ways, they are, well…somewhat ordinary. But they are also very much alive, which is extraordinary in its own right. They feel the weight of their own existence, and their relationships and interactions shape their own unique narratives, their own stories. I wanted to be able to explore the idea that stories don’t necessarily need an elaborate twist or a car chase or a bank robbery to be compelling. I suppose whether or not I’ve been successful in this regard is ultimately up to the reader. But it is my hope that the relationships the characters have with others (and with themselves) are moving, that their common interactions can be utterly revealing, and that the smallest moments can mean a great deal.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I would probably say the themes of loss and aging are probably most central to these stories. These things obviously have the potential to go together as we get older, and that is consistent with many of the characters in the book. But I think the theme of connection is also ever present in the book. The characters in this book seek connection—with their pasts, their futures, and, I think, with one another. Regardless of what they’ve lost, I’d like to think the stories maintain some degree of inspiration or hope.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next book I am working on is a collection of stories entitled I Didn’t Know What To Say, So I Just Said Thanks, and I hope it will be out by the end of the year.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

In this collection of stories on love and loss, hopes and dreams, and memory and regret, David Joseph’s prose resonates in an authentic and convincing manner.

His writing possesses an ability to convey real emotion through compelling, simple language, human interaction, and small moments. The collection, which is set in the Iberian Peninsula, carries the weight of the author’s sincerity throughout.

In an effort to bind us as humans, the characters in these stories experience extraordinary moments within the confines of ordinary lives.

Tumbleweed and Dreams: A Novel

Tumbleweed and Dreams: A Novel (The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz Book 1) by [T. P. Graf]

Some people are impulsive, and some are very calculating and measure every move before they make it. Others wait for someone to tell them what to do and when to do it. Then there is Jaime. When Jaime decides to begin life anew, he does it based on a movie. Not everyone can say they look to settle in the town in which a movie was set, but Jaime can. He’s a man with a plan to have no plan and looks forward to seeing what his future may hold in Fort Davis, Texas. With absolutely no idea how he will make a living and no long term plans, Jaime sets out on his own to make his way in the world.

Tumbleweed and Dreams: Book I From the Trilogy – The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz by T.P. Graf, chronicles the experiences of Jaime Cruz as he starts a new life in a sleepy Texas town. He has left behind a life in California that was less than successful and has begun to haunt him. Jaime is looking for a fresh start in every aspect of his life, and holds out hope that he will not only find his way to a rewarding career but also to a meaningful relationship. As Jaime begins to shape his life in Texas, he meets and becomes close to one character after another, each with his or her own unique story to share.

This is a book as much about relationships as it is the main character’s plight. Graf has given readers a beautifully crafted tale. From the intricate descriptions of the diverse cultures found in Texas to Jaime’s thoughtful exploration of religion, the author shows readers a depth not often found in most works of fiction. Jaime is an especially introspective character, and readers find themselves growing closer to him throughout the course of his story.

Graf manages to keep readers enthralled with Jaime’s day-to-day experiences chapter after chapter. While this first in a series is not a thriller or especially dramatic in its own right, it is captivating due to the author’s ability to present a well-developed main character who reaches out and grabs readers by the hand and carries them along on the journey that is beginning to shape his new life.

I recommend Tumbleweed and Dreams: Book I From the Trilogy – The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz to any reader looking for a beautifully penned tale of self-discovery and a strong main character who stands out in a crowd. Jaime Cruz, a memorable and relatable figure, will linger in readers’ minds far beyond the final page.

Pages: 210 | ASIN: B08P27HYBD

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Inside China

Inside China – From the Great Leap Backward to Huawei by [Chris Fraser OBE]

China is one of the world’s most storied nations, filled with rich history, colorful legends, and longstanding traditions, China has seen its rise and fall several times over the last millennium. Yet the China of today remains mired in mystery, hidden behind a curtain. The last fifty years has seen significant increases in China’s standing on the world stage, but what do we really know about the massive country?

Chris Fraser OBE’s Inside China – From the Great Leap Backward to Huawei is an honest and straightforward examination of the good and bad as witnessed during his time in the Hong Kong police force. This colorful memoir is filled with historical value and a deeply explored past. Chris Fraser’s book is much more than a memoir as it captures the unique path that lead to China’s current culture.

Chris Fraser is a seasoned veteran of both police and military service and it is clear that he has a strong working knowledge of what the rest of the modern world will never bear witness to. Chris Fraser’s time in the Hong Kong police force is highlighted with his encounters with various gangs, drugs, and government corruption. All of it delivered in a riveting, but factual, manner. This is a must read for everyone seeking to learn more about the turbulent decades leading up to China resuming control of Hong Kong and the removal of British authority. It is the perfect example of political and economic differences between East and West and sets the stage for understanding Chinese expansion throughout Asia. Inside China – From the Great Leap Backward to Huawei is a captivating cultural memoir that is sometimes humorous, sometimes shocking, but always compelling.

Pages: 126 | ASIN: B08L6TZRKZ

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