Saturday Newsletter: February 24, 2018

Newsletter  /   /  By Jane Levi
Stone Soup Magazine
October 2018

Turkish Aircraft Bombing Cyprus by Frosoula Papeptrou, age 6. This image was made shortly after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Turkish Aircraft Bombing Cyprus by Frosoula Papeptrou, age 6. This image was made shortly after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

 

A note from William Rubel

Next week I will be in Israel! Jane Levi, Stone Soup’s Operations Manager and I will be starting a two week adventure testing a theory of David Eitam, an Israeli Archeologist, that the Natufian people (this is the civilization between around 12,500 and 9,500 BCE that started out as hunter gatherers and ended up inventing agriculture) first made bread by processing wild barley in mortars carved into bedrock. One my other Stone Soupcolleagues will write the Newsletter, and I may contribute a little travel section.
 

 

Stone Soup’s refugee children’s project

Last week I mentioned that we would like Stone Soup to become a place where refugee children can find a voice. For me, this week’s featured artwork, by a Greek Cypriot six-year-old, captures the fear and horror of war more powerfully than the news outlets that daily report to us about the brutalities of arial bombardment in cities in Syria and Yemen.

If you would like to help us bring powerful works by children caught up in war–and this whether you are a student and might have a teacher that would get involved, along with one of your classes, or an adult reader of Stone Soup–let me know your interest by responding to this newsletter.

This week’s art, and experiencing war

For many years the Children’s Art Foundation, publisher of Stone Soup, collected children’s art from around the world. We started the collecting in 1977. One of the first gifts we received were a set of linoleum prints from Greek Cypriot children who had been caught up in the 1984 war with Turkey.

In June, 1991, I went to visit a friend in Maribor, Yugoslavia. I arrived at the border in a train from Paris. It was the day the war of independence between Slovenia and Yugoslavia began. I had come to see a friend to collect mushrooms. I had called my friend Anton from a phone booth in Paris to confirm my arrival the next day. He had said, “come!” But, when I actually showed up the next day, which turned out to be the second day of the war, he was amazed. It turned out that he had thought I was making a joke!

When the first air raid siren went off and everyone in our apartment building went down to the basement to hide I experienced the feeling of helplessness that all civilians must feel in wars. It is the feeling of the girl in the print who is screaming as the bombs drop. What can you do? There is nothing to do but wait to see what is going to happen to you. It is the most horrible feeling. You can’t really hide. You can’t really run. If the bombs drop where you are, they will find you.

The basement of our apartment was a half-basement. We were not even fully underground. There were windows high up. We sheltered in a storage room with the bikes and gardening tools. In the half-light of those small high windows, as the sirens wailed, we stood there together, silent, just waiting for the explosions. The apartment was a few blocks away from a big communications center that would be an obvious target in a war. I fully expected to die in that room. What ran through my head in a loop was this sentence: “How stupid to die in someone else’s war.”

As it turned out, the Yugoslav air force didn’t bomb us. After only ten days, the Yugoslav government decided to retreat from Slovenia and it became an independent country. The war moved on to what had been other parts of Yugoslavia where it then raged for years.

None of us are going to be able to end war. But I do think that if we can give voice to children who have survived wars, that might at least make people think a little longer before they send bombers to destroy our homes with us in them.

My daughter is in sixth grade and at her school they practice drills for what to do if there is a shooter in the school. I am sure most of you have heard about the killings at a school in Florida last week. One of the more eloquent statements after the shooting by one of the high school students who survived was this question: “Why do we deserve this?”

It is a haunting question. It is one that everyone in a war must have thought at one point or another. And we can ask that on behalf of the frightened girl in the linoleum print by Frosoula. Why did she deserve to be running from jet planes dropping bombs?

Writing about injustice

A few weeks ago my daughter read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I decided I’d read the book, too, as she had been so engrossed in it. Wow! Is it violent! It is a Young Adult novel so I know that many of you older Stone Soup readers have read it or are going to. I think one of the big themes of the book, perhaps even the theme, is that same question: “Why do I deserve this?” Or, in the case of the The Hunger Games: “I do not deserve this. We do not deserve this.”

I don’t want you to write about a war you haven’t been in. But I would like you to try your hand at a story about injustice–a story that explores the feeling that you do not deserve what is happening to you. That feeling can lead to helplessness. It can also lead to action. It can even lead to an awakening that sets you free.

I know that this is a hard one. But, if you are inspired and come up with something inspiring, please submit it to Stone Soup so Editor Emma can consider it for publication.

Until next time,

William

Sharing Stone Soup!

Subscriptions are steady and increasing, as is web usage. We are now averaging about 2,300 visitors per day. This is good, but ten times the visitors would be even better! If you enjoy Stone Soup, encourage your friends, family and colleagues to get involved too. It’s free to subscribe to this Newsletter–all you have to do is sign up for it (at the very bottom of our home page)–and subscribers have access to new issues as well as our 20 year archive, so please help us to spread the word about both the Newsletter and the full service, and share the incredible creativity of our young contributors.

 

From Stone Soup
March/April 2012

Logs

By Naima Okami, 12
Illustrated by Sarah Ko, 12

The morning the oak tree was cut down was dismal and wet, clouds drooping under the defeated sky. My breath fogged up the school bus window as I strained my eyes for one last look at the tree’s branches; one last look at the way they stretched towards the weak sunlight. I did not feel particularly sad, as I had expected, but then, what was going to happen had not yet fully registered. It was as though I was going to snap my head up in the middle of next day’s math class and say “What!” about twenty-six hours too late.

The town council, as they so bravely called themselves, had come to us months before, demanding that we cut down the “safety hazard” in our front yard. My father, never one to respect authority—especially if they were asking him to destroy something he loved, had laughed in their faces and slammed the door. Thinking that they would give up, we had promptly forgotten about the encounter until presented with their lawyer, who listed the laws we were violating until our eyebrows touched our hair. Knowing they had won, the group of committee members had smugly walked down our walkway, smart skirts and pressed pants rippling in the breeze. I had felt a strong urge to yell something at them, but my father’s footsteps drew my attention. He was walking away, toward the kitchen! To my utter disbelief he had picked up the phone and dialed the local tree service company, arranging an appointment for the “soonest time possible.” My father, who loved that old oak as much as I did, had given up. His great grandmother, when her father had built the house, had planted it. His father had taught him to climb in its dependable arms, and he had taught his daughter, me. But he had given up. And then, so had I.

And here I was, being pulled away by a cheerful, yellow bus amid drizzling rain and gray skies, wondering if I would hear the crack! of splitting wood all the way in my science room. Then the realization I had been expecting came, and I knew that I wasn’t going to sit around while my favorite part of the neighborhood was destroyed by paranoid monkeys in dress clothes. I was going to try my best, come what may.

“Excuse me?” I asked the bus driver, trying not to look at the rolls of fat that cascaded from her stomach, resting on her legs.

“Yeah?”

“I was—um—wondering if you would let me out. I forgot something at home. I can have my mother drive me to school after I get it, she’s off work today.” This was a lie, but how was she to know?

“Sure, hon, get on out. Don’t be late for school!”

With a faint hiss like angry snakes hidden inside the dashboard, the doors opened, and I ran down the rain-darkened steps and onto the road… /more

About the Author

Jane has been working with Stone Soup since 2016 on variety of different things--including running the Stone Soup Test Kitchen! She is a writer, researcher and consultant.

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