Sunday, June 06, 2010

Female Nomad and Friends (Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World)by Rita Golden Gelman

Category: Travel - Essays & Travelogues
Format: Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 978-0-307-58801-2 (0-307-58801-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2010
Price: $17.50
Six years ago I read a book, "Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World" by Rita Golden Gelman  which finally answered the question I had been asking myself ever since I can remember, "What do I want to be when I grow up?".  Needless to say it is a book that actually changed my life.  Funnily enough, when I was in the moment of reading it I didn't realize the power that this book was going to have over me, infact, I thought quite the contrary. I remember balking at the idea of traveling with no set plans which is what Rita does all the time.  She takes advantage of opportunities as they come up, "It's my new credo: say yes to everything."  My rational mind was trying to tell me that people don't just up and leave for a foreign land (long term) without knowing anyone there or without a job in hand....I found it impetuous and foolhardy but I also found myself envying her nomadic lifestyle.
What a blessing to have the freedom to decide where you want to go and when and to trust enough that the locals of your "for-the-moment" chosen country will look out for you.  Rita never ever stays in hotels....she always stays with a local family found for her  through organizations like Servas and Couchsurfing, and that makes for a  complete and gratifying immersion in the local culture.  It took me a few years to realize that his is exactly what I see myself doing after my kids have left home. I am going to travel the world, living anywhere I want and for as long as I want in my quest to become a citizen of the world and to connect with people from all over the globe..   How will I fund myself?  Gelman did it by writing children's books...I'll have to find another way, but I have no doubt it can be done!

Anyway, I digress.  I am here to talk about Gelman's new book an anthology titled,"Female Nomad and Friends".  Here Gelman brings together 41 authors to tell their stories of adventuring around the world  and the bonds they created while doing so.  100% of royalties will be donated to fund scholarships to vocational schools for kids from the slums of New Delhi.   As if that isn't an incentive enough to pick up the book but the stories are something else too - captivating, inspirational, joyful, thoughtful and life-affirming - and, AND, the book includes 30 fabulous recipes! 

To celebrate the anthology and the special bonding that happens when people share a meal and a book, Rita is hosting a 24-hour global dinner, Connecting through Food, on Friday, June 18th. To learn more about how you can be a part of the 24-hour dinner, go to Rita will be posting some recipes, suggesting others, and also proposing topics for discussion.  I hope to be hosting one too!

The anthology holds a collection of some fifty-nine tales and while it may sound daunting I should let you know that most of the tales are just 2-3 pages long.  While I commend them all, I did have my favorites:  The one from Vietnam, "A Wet Shoe Story" by Carolyn Stoucy actually made me tear up and realize that humility is such an important quality, especially as I find that it seems to be the very thing many of us try to shrug off.  We are told never to "sell ourselves short", never to "be vulnerable", what that has done has turned us into a nation of people who don't know how to help or even to ask for it.  We can be a little selfish and individualistic.  In the East, it can be a little different...guests are revered and the well being of the community is certainly more important than the well being of the individual.

I also enjoyed the story from Samoa, "In Search Of A Familiar Soul", by Catherine Buchanan, not just because it was a passionate love story but also because it is a lesson in creative visualization.  What you envision, you really do draw to you.  You will find this story on page 186.   I thought there would be more from India but as far I can tell there is just one, but it is very well written and the author, Kelly Hayes-Raitt has done a great job of describing how India made her feel.  Then there is Rita's story of how she came to attend the making of "Ho Mok" a Thai Fish Custard dish in Ban Krud, Thailand.  I took particular interest in  this story because I have a sneaking suspicion that Fish Amok which is a Cambodian dish and one of my favorite dishes ever is really a version of  Ho Mok.  If I do host that Global Supper, I will be making this! 

Another story that touched me a whole lot is "Cajeta and the Spirits" by Maria Altobelli.  Here we meet Mercedes, a terminally ill old lady who "just couldn't make up her mind to cross over".  This touched me because I have a friend who works in a hospice and she said this is a common problem with some people close to death.  It's as if they are waiting for one last thing to happen before they give themselves permission to die.  In Mercedes' case, she passed peacefully after her son Arturo put a spoonful of "cajeta", a creamy, sweet, caramel confection made from cooked goat's milk inside his mother's lips.  Then Altobelli goes on to share a recipe for Cajeta which I will have to try.

No doubt, like me, you will have your own favourite stories and I would love it if you would share them here. Also, find one of those global suppers to participate in, it's all for a good cause.


Anonymous said...

Typically when I read a book, I forget the details in a week or two. I read Tales of a Female years ago and still recall it! It's one of only two books that I've read that relate quite personally to me. I love it!! I try to recommend it to others, but only get a blank stare from them. I'm glad to see there is another book coming and would love to do a dinner if I weren't going to be traveling on that date.
Gelman's second book is a must read for me!

Wendy said...

What an awesome post - these books look great...I've added them to my wishlist. Thank you!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi Campbele! As you know, always so nice to see you here! You know, I have actually heard Gelman and her lifestyle referred to as hedonistic! It seems to me that people tend to judge a person a little too harshly when they don't live by the rules. I think she she's brave and courageous for living life spontaneously and on her own terms and I envy her (and you!)

Lotus Reads said...

Hello Wendy, I'm glad you did, I know you won't regret it! BTW, what blog can I catch you at?

Wendy said...

My main book blog is

Lotus Reads said...

Ahh, yes, Wendy, I remember you! Your blog is awesome!

Booksnyc said...

thanks for spotlighting this book! I have Tales of a Female Nomad on the shelf and your post has inspired to move it up the list!

Lotus Reads said...

Thanks for the visit Booksnyc! Would love to hear your thoughts after you read it.

Prixie said...

Oh wow! I definitely need to get my hands on this. Adding it to my online shopping wish list!

I have also always only wanted to travel, nothing else. Being a travel writer helps! :)

Lotus Reads said...

You bet'cha Prixie! But do keep thinking about it and planning for it, as they say, dreams are the laboratories of reality.

Bhaswati said...

Dear Lotus, am visiting after a LONG time! And I see you and I have chosen the same template for our blog makeover! It's a nice one, no doubt. Well, your wonderful blog is now linked on mine. Do drop by when you have a moment. :)

Lotus Reads said...

I'll be over shortly Bhaswati...great seeing you here!

Sanjay said...

Lotus when are you making your plans to travel? The few years before the kids fly the nest will go by before you know it. :-)
It is wonderful if you can do that. I have heard of couchsurfing when the NYT did a piece on it a couple of years ago. Maybe what makes it easier to do is perhaps reduced expectations and a willingness to live without the comforts that we in the West often take for granted and an open mind?
Does Rita talk about this aspect of it at all?
Truly a wonderful book from your as always absorbing review!!
The cover almost made me feel there may be more stories from India, but glad to see the other part of the world represented as well too.
But I wish more folks got to read this book and similar ones, might make us all appreciate our world a bit better no?
Is there a story that you did not like in particular? I know strange q..sorry.
And did you host a global dinner?
Enjoyed reading your review as always.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt said...

Thank you for your kind compliment about my essay in Female Nomad & Friends! I am honored to be part of such a fun anthology whose proceeds support scholarships for children in India.

I also love the 33 recipes!

I have two other essays in Female Nomad & Friends about my experiences in pre- and post-invasion Iraq. I hope you enjoy them! They are chapters in my forthcoming memoir.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt