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This Is How It Begins: A Novel by Joan…

This Is How It Begins: A Novel (original 2017; edition 2017)

by Joan Dempsey (Author)

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Title:This Is How It Begins: A Novel
Authors:Joan Dempsey (Author)
Info:She Writes Press (2017), 399 pages
Collections:Your library

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This Is How It Begins: A Novel by Joan Dempsey (2017)



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I enjoyed and was captivated and intrigued by “This is How it Begins ” by Joan Dempsey. The genres for this Novel are Historical Fiction and Fiction. Kudos to Joan Dempsey for weaving different layers into this story. There are two separate storylines. According to the blurb,” Compulsively readable, This Is How It Begins is a timely novel about free speech, the importance of empathy, and the bitter consequences of long kept secrets.”

The author describes the characters of the story as complicated and complex. This is possibly due to the political agenda and climate in this story. The year is 2009, and a main character , Ludka Zeilonka, an 85 year old art professor gets involved in the political upset when her grandson Tommy, a gay teacher is fired. Both Ludka’s husband and son have been active in politics, and Tommy is supported by his father’s liberal support of gay rights, and also is against firing for any kind of discrimination. Tommy is only on of several gay teachers fired.

There is a Christian Right wing group that is saying it believes that Tommy has been depriving Christian believing children from learning. Radio-host Warren Meck has political aspirations and believes that his Catholic children are being deprived of the proper learning in school. Unfortunately there are riots and violence, and Warren Mack prefers using words.

Ludka has the sickening feeling of remembering during World War Two when the Nazis were oppressive. This reminds her of that. Only then Ludka had many dark secrets. One was that she rescued children before the Nazis got to them. Also Ludka had a part in trying to save the Polish Jewish people’s art that was being taken by the Nazis.

As Ludka thinks about what is happening to her grandson, someone from her past threatens her.

I appreciate that the author brings up topics such as discrimination, , gay rights, minority rights, bias, bullying, violence, betrayal, and secrets and how harmful they are. The author also discusses honesty, communicating, compromising, empathy, love, hope, family friends and community.

I would highly recommend this novel to those who appreciate Historical Fiction. I received an Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review. ( )
  teachlz | Dec 13, 2017 |
In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here — a satire showing it sure can. With incredible ambition, Joan Dempsey follows Lewis’ example to illustrate urgent truths at a time of crisis. This Is How It Begins unites the “it” of the past with the “it” of today in ways people on the wrong side of history vigorously dispute.

Most of the story is told by three generations of a remarkable family. The grandparents are Polish immigrants, a Catholic art professor and a Jewish lawyer who became the Massachusetts Attorney General. Their sons are a Chief of Police and the President of the Massachusetts Senate. Their grandson is a teacher, one who has been fired, along with ten other teachers, for infringing on their students’ religious expression.

This reflects the current anti-gay movement opposing anti-bullying laws because not bullying infringes on students’ expression. Bigotry and intolerance are claimed as protected religious expression. It’s not fiction. The other main character is a religious radio personality who is part of the inner circle organizing a push to establish or, as they falsely claim, restore, America as a Christian Nation. It’s not hyperbole, look who won his election Tuesday night, Roy Moore, a man who defied the Supreme Court twice, elevating his religious dogma over the Constitution and the Rule of Law.

The grandmother recalls her past in Warsaw, revealing her secrets if only to herself. At first, she does not recognize how very much homophobia echoes anti-Semitism, but as the campaign gains ground, with an attack on her son, threatening phone calls, graffiti, and even arson, the similarities are unmistakable. She knows from her own experience that the Nazis did not start out with death camps, they started out by firing teachers.

This Is How It Begins makes an earnest and high-minded effort to be fair-minded. Warren Meck, the radio host is sincere in his compassion for the teachers and their families. He is worried someone is directing the violence and the real love that motivates him is lost in the malice. However, if your religion requires you to be “resilient in the face of empathy” – if empathy is something you struggle against, then the problem is you.

I want to mention one quality of This Is How It Begins I appreciate more than any other. Dempsey avoids the cheap cynicism of modern writers who assume anyone who is in politics is necessarily corrupted by it. Nearly everyone is sincere, the retired Attorney General, the Senate President, even the homophobe Meck is sincere.

This story tackles the big question for people who value freedom and humanity. How does a tolerant society tolerate intolerance? Karl Popper argues tolerating intolerance ultimately leads to the eradication of tolerance by the intolerant. I think Ludka, the family matriach would agree.

This Is How It Begins will be released October 1st. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher, She Writes Press, through NetGalley.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/9781631523083/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Oct 1, 2017 |
"Compulsively readable, This Is How It Begins is a timely novel about free speech, the importance of empathy, and the bitter consequences of long-buried secrets." from the publisher

Only six years ago I saw a Christian church undergo a vicious split. It involved attacking the denomination for a social creed they deemed too liberal and the pastor as heretical for not leading their withdrawal from the denomination. Their main point of contention was over abortion, although they also were vocal about homosexuality.

A majority of the church members left the denomination to start a community church, but first, they tried to take over, then destroy, the church they had been members of for many years. It was shocking how individuals viciously attacked others while
professing a Bible-based faith.

My husband was the pastor of that church. It was that experience that prompted me to request this novel.

This Is How It Begins by Joan Dempsey was an emotional read, full of believable and fully realized characters, doctrinal idealists and victims of prejudice and hate. I loved how characters showed themselves to be different from what we expected from them.

Art professor Ludka Zeilonka had survived Nazi Poland while saving Jewish children and hiding drawings documenting the occupation. She immigrated to America with her husband Izaac, who became the first Jewish attorney-general in Massachusetts. Their son Lolek is the state's most powerful senator, and his son Tommy is a well-liked high school English Teacher, married to lawyer Richard.

Tommy, along with thirteen other teachers, were all fired on the same day. The one thing they have in common is their sexual orientation. Tommy and his family become the target of hate crimes of increasing violence.

Influential Pastor Royce has an agenda and political ambitions. He is supported by radio host Warren Merck in a campaign to restore America to its Christian roots. They are behind the mass firing of teachers. Politically savvy, their defense is that Christian students feel marginalized and pressured against expressing their beliefs while being forced to accept the 'homosexual agenda' promoted by the fired teachers.

Merck is appalled by the rising violence, Tommy beaten in front of his house and his grandparent's home set on fire.

Ludka and Izaac return to their hometown in Poland, an emotional journey into a past they have tried to forget. Lukda finds the Jewish boy her family had protected and learns his devastating secret.

Ludka suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. What is happening to Tommy is too much like what she experienced in Poland, too much like how the Holocaust began.

The topic of the novel, sadly, is more relevant today than ever: How can conflicting belief systems learn to live together? What does it mean to be protected under the law?

This is an amazing novel.

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. ( )
  nancyadair | Jun 26, 2017 |
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A provocative love story explores a spectrum of powerful emotions experienced by diverse protagonists, each of them searching for meaning, love, and a place of safety. In a graveyard outside the walls of Old Delhi, a resident unrolls a threadbare Persian carpet. On a concrete sidewalk, a baby suddenly appears, just after midnight. In a snowy valley, a bereaved father writes a letter to his five-year-old daughter about the people who came to her funeral. In a second-floor apartment, a lone woman chain-smokes as she reads through her old notebooks. At the Jannat Guest House, two people who have known each other all their lives sleep with their arms wrapped around each other, as though they have just met. All have been broken by the world we live in-- and then mended by love. For this reason, they will never surrender.… (more)

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