Feb. 19, 2000

Sister Ritual

by Ginger Andrews

Broadcast Date: SATURDAY: February 19, 2000

Poem: "Sister Ritual" by Ginger Andrews, from An Honest Answer (Story Line Press).

Itís the birthday of novelist Amy Tan, born in Oakland, California (1952), to immigrant parents who left China before Mao took over. She studied English at San Jose State University and Berkeley, then worked as a technical writer and reporter before breaking into fiction. In 1987, with her mother, she took her first trip to China, where she met two half-sisters, an experience that led Tan to write her first novel, The Joy Luck Club (1989.)

On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of individuals "of Japanese ancestry" from the "military area" of the West Coast of the United States. 112,000 Japanese-Americans, many of them American-born citizens or naturalized immigrants, were forced to live in dismal conditions, under heavy military guard. Most lost their jobs and homes while imprisoned, and were penniless by the time of their release.

Itís the birthday of novelist Carson McCullers (Lula Carson Smith), born in Columbus, Georgia (1917)—a shy, introspective woman who, at the age of 17, went to Columbia University to study music. Her novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), published when she was 23, centers on a deaf-mute man who uncomprehendingly accepts the confidences of 4 characters who all think he is sympathetic to them. He confides his heartache to a man who is feebleminded as well as mute, further extending the line of meaningless communication. Her other novels were Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), A Member of the Wedding (1946, which she adapted into a successful stage play in 1950, and was made into a movie in 1952), The Ballad of the Sad Cafťé (1951), and Clock Without Hands (1961).

Itís the birthday of the founder of modern astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus, born in Torun [taw-ROON], eastern Poland (1473)—who proposed that the Sun, not the Earth, was at the center of manís universe. This defied Church dogma, based on the theories of Ptolemy [TOL-eh-mee], with his Ďgeocentricí universe, and Aristotle, who assumed that the Earth sat at the center of all things. Copernicus did not come to his heresies lightly; himself a monk, he studied mathematics and optics, then violently upset the view that had been firmly held for 1,400 years in his 400-page treatise, Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs, published just days before he died (1543). It took the scientific and clerical establishment nearly 200 years to accept his view.

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