A book review I just have to post: Why is this not immediately obvious?

     Ok, Jill, you win: another rant, this time from some notes I just found while looking for some old poetry that I archived.  This book review is sadly still relevant, in terms of our society needing to talk to each other, and have empathy for one another:

 Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and DeprivationPoverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation by Amartya Sen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, a book for which I was sure that I’d written a review, probably because I cited it so often during my PhD work which eventually became my MPhil thesis.

I found these notes from 2008, and am posting them with just a tiny bit of clean up:

As I look back over Senn’s 1981 ‘Poverty and Famines’ after yet another argument, back in 2008, with my nice Thai office mate on why America is not in fact the Land of Opportunity if you start off poor, I see again what hit me when I first arrived at the University of Bath.

Middle class people really don’t get it. My office mate keeps saying ‘just work hard and you’ll get a job’ but can’t fathom the lack of opportunities for people who have no connections and no home or family on which to fall back.

Senn likewise documents the lack of resources and opportunities that play in with the system of entitlements in famines to ensure that the wealthy and middle classes tend not to suffer much, but the poor suffer by falling further into destitution or even starving to death. This is something I found myself thinking as I read ‘well, duh’ -it’s obvious to someone who lives among poor people because it’s all around the poor and the working classes. But to someone living in a house the next block over, with an office or a shop to tend to daily, it may not be so obvious. Just like an academic presenting ‘findings’ showing that the poor in England (lone mothers in that seminar) were better off if they had both a job and child care support. Well, duh. Why is this not immediately obvious to begin with? Because people with connections can’t imagine not having them. Or something. I’m not sure. It looks clear to me that people who’ve never missed a meal (as my older Chinese former roommate pointed out about the younger students, saying “they can’t understand because they haven’t suffered”), like my office mate, can’t understand the difficulties of people who weren’t blessed with such luck.

Let’s make more luck for all of us, together.

View all my reviews  

   We now return you to your Sunday story of two, sorry, now three, very young women escaping bondage through Maryland:

…  Parts 13 (Interruptions)12 (Gifts)11 (Punishment),  10 (Warmth),   9 (Found)8 (Lost)7 (Rock)6 (Believe), 5 (Naming), 4 (Home), 3 (Trust), 2 (Hope), and 1 (Nightmares) have posted on previous Sundays…

Part 14: Words

     Anna looked back at me, shaking her head ever so slightly.  Now was not the time for questions.  Apparently the state of things was more delicate than I had surmised.

“Well, no decisions should be made on an empty stomach.  Young Tilly has helped me to prepare dinner, and there is to be pie afterward.  Then, and not a moment before, we will find some manner of resolving this situation.”

The doctor’s wife had spoken, and not an objection was there to be heard.  The doctor placed the sheaf of papers upon the writing desk by the bedside, nodded at both of us, and left the room, his wife having already gone down to see to dinner.  The smell of pie was now being joined by that of what seemed to be a collection of roasted vegetable smells, as though it were Sunday after church.

The three of us shared a basin to wash up and dress for dinner, only just sitting in a row on the bed by the time the doctor’s wife arrived carrying a larger tray than usual.  Anna and Tilly helped her arrange our place settings, while I made sure that all remained in equilibrium, seated as we were upon the bedside.

“I must return and dine downstairs with my husband, in case any curious neighbors look in, but I shall come back up shortly to collect the dishes.  I do wish you all a good meal.”

We each nodded our thanks, and she gave a gracious nod in return before closing the door behind her.  I looked at Anna, nodding toward little Tilly’s plate.  Anna turned to the child, encouraging her to eat, but the little girl shook her head.


By all the heavens.  At last!  I was overjoyed to finally be able to say grace without seeming to be a troublesome patient.  Anna smiled, and all three of us bowed our heads.  Tilly looked up at me, and I decided to give some small thanks to the good Lord for getting us here safely.  Then, our hearts more at ease, we ate with less worry.  It was still plain that each of us feared this new development, but things suddenly seemed just a little bit better.

After clearing about half her plate, seeming to be absorbed in her thoughts as she ate, Anna looked up at me.

“Miss Willow?”

“Yes, Miss Anna?”

“How do you feel about your reading, now?”

My heart sank.  I had been sure that this question would come soon, and equally sure that I would not be up to the challenge which the question was meant to represent.

During the time I spent convalescing at the home of Dr. H., we were not idle.  The doctor’s wife spent every spare moment, it seemed, showing me a new eye chart, with diverse characters of the alphabet.

This served two purposes.  First, in checking my vision after each meal, we could all see the progress of my recovery.  Second, and most urgently, Anna and I were learning our letters.  We would need to know how to read if we were to make sure our escape, for many papers and postings made mention of our evasion, and according to a certain Mr. Bacon, knowledge was power.

Little did we know how soon the need for such power would arrive.


       This is the continuation scene in my historical fiction series  Ann&Anna.  I  hope that this series will move you to learn more ways to help use our history to build new tools.

  Part 13 was last Sunday, and Part 15 will be next Sunday.

I look forward to your thoughts.


Action Prompts:

1.) Share your thoughts on how this story may encourage empathy-building cooperation, and might help, or hinder, inclusive thinking.

2.) Write a story, post or tweet that uses those thoughts.

Dear Readers, ideas on learning, especially multiple #LanguageLearning, on-going education and empathy-building, to #EndPoverty, #EndHomelessness,  #EndMoneyBail & achieve freedom for All HumanKind? 

Support our key #PublicDomainInfrastructure  & #StopSmoking at least for CCOVID-19:
1. #PublicLibraries,
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare, and
4. good #publictransport
Read, Write

-we can learn from the past Stayed on Freedom’s Call for free,

        by Teaching and Learning (Lesson Plans offline) in the present, to

                     We can  Do Better:  Project Do Better proposes a path to create a kinder future



Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil, MAT, BSCS

the year, 2021 CE = year 12021 HE

( 5 month GED lesson 22 of 67 plans…),

       and Ranger M.’s Babylon 5 review posts, because story inspires learning, and historical stories inspire tool-building, right?  “Of course right!”

Stayed on Freedom’s Call
(free: https://archive.org/details/StayedOnF…)
includes two ‘imagination-rich’ walking tours, with songs, of Washington, DC. New interviews and research are woven into stories of old struggles shared by both the Jewish and African-American communities in the capital city.

Shared histories are explored from a new perspective of cultural parallels and parallel institution-building which brought the two communities together culturally and historically.

Please leave a review, if you can, on the GoodReads page.


Creative Commons License
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

14 thoughts on “A book review I just have to post: Why is this not immediately obvious?

    1. You’re corrupting my poor little academic brain, Jill! 🙂 I’m supposed to be cool, calm, collected, and entirely even-handed, never “biased” and certainly not “polemical” in my writings -oh, wait, that was why I didn’t get the PhD, ok, nevermind, thank you for your guidance, oh Mistress of Snark!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Ahhhhh … but what you have, my friend, is passion, and passion will sometimes deem it necessary to rant. There is a time for ‘cool, calm, collected and entirely even-handed’ and there is a time for taking off the gloves and coming out swinging. The key is to know which is which.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Aha: very good point! (like what Nairobi tells Alison after her failed confrontation with Berlin: “He dicho que hay que eligir bien el momento!” “I said you have to choose your timing carefully!”)

          Liked by 2 people

  1. “…older Chinese former roommate pointed out about the younger students,…”

    and he was referring to younger PhD students, also from various parts of China (although the kid from Tibet never seemed comfortable, nor especially nicely treated, by one of our other young Chinese students, a young man who was ethnically Chinese, probably Han, I imagine, rather than Tibetan). Even young people from China no longer know what it is to suffer hunger, as this contemporary of mine, who went through the Cultural Revolution (?) -he’s about 55 years old, maybe 60, now, I guess, and went hungry alot, earlier. As did I. Funny how two people from such different cultures can find common ground even more than with their own ‘countrymen’ when experiences bring common empathetic ground.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When things started to disintegrate in Syria from pro-democracy protests to full on governmental war against its own people, I really tried to articulate to anyone that would listen that the Syrians were just like us. That they had been going about normal lives going to work, spending time with friends and family, some of them getting their morning cups of latte or coffee just like people do here until everything turned violent, and they were forced to flee from their homes. I think people tend to feel too overwhelmed with what is happening to other people that they create a defensive mechanism to separate themselves from “those people” to justify why they need not get involved and offer empty platitudes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, they do, you’re right: I’ve seen it, and even been told that “sometimes it’s bad to know too much.” But I think that helping people see that there are things, even small things, that we can all do to make a difference, especially when they fit in with a larger organized movement, can work.
      That’s why I’m working so hard on Do Better: every poem we write for empathy, every post we publish to humanize others, can help our society Do Better.

      Liked by 3 people

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