What We Are Reading Today: The Indomitable Florence Finch

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Updated 25 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Indomitable Florence Finch

Author: Robert J. Mrazek

The Indomitable Florence Finch is the story of the transcendent bravery of a woman who belongs in America’s pantheon of war heroes.
Florence Finch, the unsung World War II hero, saved countless American lives in the Philippines.
After the war, she moved to the US, and in 1947 was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive, for the way she had risked her life to save American prisoners and perform other acts of resistance. She died in 2016 at the age of 101.
Author Robert J. Mrazek’s “amazing story is of resilience, resistance, the fight to live and to help others and to be free and survive,” said a review published in goodreadas.com.
“Florence was an unlikely warrior. She relied on her own intelligence and fortitude to survive on her own from the age of seven, facing bigotry as a person with the dual heritage of her American serviceman father and Filipino mother,” the review added.
Mrazek is the author of seven novels, including Stonewall’s Gold, Unholy Fire, The Deadly Embrace, Valhalla, The Bone Hunters, Dead Man’s Bridge, and And the Sparrow Fell.


‘The Frightened Ones’: An emotionally shattering take on Syrian life

Updated 21 September 2020

‘The Frightened Ones’: An emotionally shattering take on Syrian life

CHICAGO: Author Dima Wannous’s “The Frightened Ones,” masterfully translated by Elisabeth Jaquette in 2020,  was a finalist for the 2018 International Prize for Arabic. The novel takes readers on a haunting journey through history, time and protagonist Suleima’s mind as she navigates war and trauma in Syria. From the waiting room of her psychiatrist’s office to the streets of Damascus, readers get a glimpse into the mind of a young woman who has trouble differentiating reality from fantasies as political turmoil and the collective suffering of a nation fills page after heartbreaking page.  

From the Ain Al-Kirish neighborhood, Suleima attempts to understand her life, the one where her father has passed away, her brother has disappeared and her mother has aged overnight. She regularly sees her psychiatrist, Kamil, and that is where she meets Naseem. After being together for years, he emigrates to Germany without her and hands her an unfinished manuscript. As Suleima reads the manuscript, she can no longer tell her life and the narrator’s apart. They seem to be on the same path and share an uncertain future.  

But Suleima isn’t the only one dealing with a traumatic past, so are those around her. The nation has suffered and continues to suffer at the hands of militiamen, spying and informing on neighbors, and the military intelligence directorate, who have left parents childless and children parentless. The paranoia that infiltrates Suleima’s entire being is the same paranoia that seeps through the streets and into its residents. 

Wannous’s tale is emotionally shattering as she writes of her character, “my emotions were held hostage by events in Syria.” Within its borders, families and neighbors turn against one another. Memories upon memories, both good and bad, have begun to bleed into one another as those who have the means to flee do and those who cannot bring themselves to leave are drowning in sadness as “fear ruins the imagination.” It is a powerful novel of human relationships and inhumane politics. The tremors of past traumas never stop reverberating through the pages as people are forced to live life as the frightened ones.