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images 5043344_f520 liquid_chocI love chocolate. I prefer the Swiss kind, very dark. (It helps me write.)

I once went to a chocolate town in Switzerland named Kilchberg. That city is the home of the Lindt & Sprungli factory.

Kilchberg is not a typical jumping-off spot for the tourist with a Swiss Rail pass, but it lured Thomas Mann at the end of his life. His son Golo Mann, an essayist and historian, also settled into Kilchberg at the end of a distinguished literary career, living in his parents’ house with his mother.

So Kilchberg has this literary and chocolate past, you see. If ever writers needed a pilgrimage spot, Kilchberg could work.

The town smells insanely good. The Lindt & Sprungli factory furnaces burn off the “bad” chocolate (as if that adjective could be stuck next to the noun and make sense). So the closer you get, the dizzier you become. Tours can be arranged at this factory, and visitors are given bags of sample chocolate.

I guess there used to be bad chocolate. As most prolific readers (that would be writers) know, chocolate was heavily in use in the New World, but not like we eat it today. Sugar wasn’t part of the mix. Ground cocoa was roasted and mixed with red pepper, vanilla and water. The Milanese traveler Girolamo Benzoni said chocolate seemed “more suited for pigs than men.” About 70 years later, the Spanish began to experiment with chocolate.Zürichsee_-_Kilchberg_Lindt_&_Sprüngli_IMG_0227

The trend of eating chocolate in sold form spread from Spain throughout Europe. In 1674, chocolate in the shape of rolls and cakes “in the Spanish fashion” were being sold in Lodon. Rodolphe Lindt (1855-1909), following in the footsteps of chocolatiers Henri Nestle (who invented condensed milk) and Daniel Peter (who mixed the condensed milk with chocolate) brought chocolate into new states of lusciousness.

Lusciousness is of course what writers need in order to think, write and console themselves.

The reason Lindt is called Lindt & Springli is due to Rodolphe Sprungli-Schifferli buying the Lindt trademark and recipe secrets in 1899 for 1 1/2 million Swiss francs.

This sum (even then!) should give writers pause. We are all trying to write the breakout novel. People eat chocolate more than they read. Who said the limits of chocolate have been explored? Or for that matter, why invent or write anything? Employees at Lindt & Sprungli can eat as much chocolate as they want.

What are we doing at our computers when we could be in a chocolate factory?

 

 

 

 

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winter-always-turns-to-springA book is “worthy” to me  if I cannot get it out of my head for its beauties and truisms, if it makes me learn about someone’s unexpected heroism in endurance or grants me a perspective of life hitherto unconsidered. That is what happened with Winter Always Turns to Spring. Written by Dr. Akemi Bailey Haynie in the voice of her mother, Sachiko Takata Bailey,  the memoir begins with a fourteen-year-old Japanese girl who lived about fifty miles from Hiroshima at the time of the atom bomb blast.

Sachiko’s male relatives went into Hisoshima after the catastrophe, sometimes daily, in order to locate survivors. They did not realize how dangerous the radioactivity was to them. When she was older, Sachiko’s altruistic nursing of American soldiers brought her into contact with LeRoy Bailey, a strapping young MP. He was by far the most persistent wooer of the beautiful young Japanese woman; he won her hand.

Together they overcame the hurdle of paperwork to get married. Once Sachiko Bailey reached her husband’s hometown, she faced with a new assortment of unexpected problem–primarily, discrimination and poverty. She also faced the first profound instance of her husband’s casual attitude towards truth. He had told her he came from a “big city with big lights.” This was a blatant lie.

Gradual understanding of her situation for Sachiko was sobering. For one thing, she could not go home. The reader senses this without the point needing to be underlined. I loved this memoir. It captures the dilemma of so many brides, war brides in particular, who have come across unexpected cross-cultural dilemmas, social discrimination, and domestic abuse. Sachiko had a lot to cope with from LeRoy, but her Japanese cultural background and her turning to Nichiren Buddhism helped her both endure and grow.

I was amazed at Sachiko’s innovative approaches to allay if not overcome poverty. This memoir teaches that endurance is not surrender. Sachiko’s decision to stay with an abusive African-American husband does not end as badly as it might have. The way this resourceful family coped with their biculturalism  was inspirational. The children formed a singing group called Takata, and it was quite successful for years.

The power Sachiko demonstrated to adjust her perceptions throughout life for the sake of truth, coping, and spiritual growth is astounding.The editor, Layberry, suggests that this memoir provides a valuable glimpse into American history. I completely agree. It is that and so much more.

Winter Always Turns to Spring shows what the Japanese war brides who came to the USA from a background of subservience and repression hoped to find and had to withstand. Sachiko’s spirit is demonstrated in the fact that she blames war and not the USA for the double catastrophes of Hiroshima and Nagasake.

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Author Dr. Akemi Bailey Haynie does a wonderful job of writing in her mother’s voice, conveying the thoughts, goals and ideals that shaped Sachiko’s decisions throughout her life.

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