Icy Sparks is the sad, funny and transcendent tale of a young girl growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky during the 1950's. Gwyn Hyman Rubio's beautifully written first novel revolves around Icy Sparks, an unforgettable heroine. At the age of ten, Icy, a bright, curious child orphaned as a baby but raised by adoring grandparents, begins to have strange experiences. Try as she might, her "secrets" — verbal croaks, groans, and physical spasms-keep afflicting her. As an adult, she will find out she has Tourette's Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, but for years her behavior is the source of mystery, confusion, and deep humiliation.

Narrated by a grown up Icy, the book chronicles a difficult, but ultimately hilarious and heartwarming journey, from her first spasms to her self-acceptance as a young woman. Curious about life beyond the hills, talented, and energetic, Icy learns to cut through all barriers-physical, mental, and spiritual-in order to find community and acceptance.

Along her journey, Icy faces the jeers of her classmates as well as the malevolence of her often-ignorant teachers-including Mrs. Stilton, one of the most evil fourth grade teachers ever created by a writer. Called willful by her teachers and "Frog Child" by her schoolmates, she is exiled from the schoolroom and sent to a children's asylum where it is hoped that the roots of her mysterious behavior can be discovered. Here Icy learns about difference-her own and those who are even more scarred than she. Yet, it isn't until Icy returns home that she really begins to flower, especially through her friendship with the eccentric and obese Miss Emily, who knows first-hand how it feels to be an outcast in this tightly knit Appalachian community. Under Miss Emily's tutelage, Icy learns about life's struggles and rewards, survives her first comical and heartbreaking misadventure with romance, discovers the healing power of her voice when she sings, and ultimately-takes her first steps back into the world.

Icy Sparks is a fresh, original, and completely redeeming novel about learning to overcome others' ignorance and celebrate the differences that make each of us unique.


In 1977 writer Jean M. Auel began research for her first book, an evocative historical fiction novel which dramatically intersects the lives Neanderthals and Cro-magnon humans in prehistoric Europe.

"Clan of the Cave Bear", the cornerstone in the Earth Children series, tells the tale of a Cro-magnon orphan Ayla, who at five years old survives an earthquake and an attack from a cave lion before she is rescued by the kind and wise medicine woman Iza. Though Ayla's appearance is vastly different, and in the eyes of the Neanderthal clan even ugly, the young girl wins a place among the clan when the holy man and Mog-ur Creb decides her presence is in fact a good omen.

Leader Brun remains conflicted between the steadfast traditions his people have long relied upon for their survival versus the benefit of this strange new creature among them. Had the spirits, their totems, really sent this unusual child to them for "luck", even when everything she does inevitably challenges their philosophies and customs?

From the way she communicates to the way she expresses emotion, Ayla learns early on she must continue her struggle for survival by integrating with them and behaving as a Clan woman should, rather the ugly outsider she is. However having evolved past what her adopted people are able to do, this proves problematic for the earnest young girl.

Whereas her Clan relies on "memories" and instinct, she has the ability for analytical thought and deductive reasoning. Whereas her Clan adheres to strict tradition, Ayla is able to adapt and evolve. She finds herself unable to abide constrictive cultural expectations in her ever growing desire to challenge herself and to push herself to the limits of her ability.

For a group of people who rely on conformity for their sense of security and balance, she provides a constant source of conflict. This is especially true with Broud, Brun's son and leader to be. He resents her presence and does whatever he can to make her life miserable; longing to steal from her what he can never possess.

Ayla, in her attempt to survive her sometimes dire circumstances, ends up an unintentional hero for feminism itself. What the Clan see in her, and alternately fear in her, is the strength that will carry over in all Homo sapiens for millenniums to come. Her strange behavior, thoughts and feelings are the very things that ensure the survival of her race while highlighting the limitations of their own.

It is through this young child who ages no more than a teenager through the course of the novel that we once again are reminded of the indomitable nature of the human spirit.

Author Jean Auel herself demonstrates this spirit by the thoughtful and thorough way she researched for this groundbreaking series; not only did she do extensive study on the Ice Age but physically learned many of the survivalist skills she describes in her books.

It lends an authenticity to the tale that will keep the reader vested intellectually, while Ayla and her struggle to survive will emotionally engage audiences for years to come. Though the prehistoric world they live in is vastly different from our modern times, the themes are widely universal. From racism to sexism and cultural divisiveness and superstition, the dynamic characters of "Clan of the Cave Bear" speak a language in which we are all familiar.



Since today is Wednesday, I decided to do a selection of pictures representing it. Enjoy :-)


Wizard of Oz

A number of writers in recent years have pointed to a spiritual message in The Wizard of Oz. The MGM film of The Wizard of Oz contains only one reference to religion. When Almira Gulch confronts Dorothy's aunt and uncle about Toto, Aunt Em tells Miss Gulch, "I'd tell you what I think of you but I'm a Christian woman." The spiritual interpretations have not been limited to Christianity, though. In several books published in the last couple of decades, L. Frank Baum's story has been interpreted as a Christian search for redemption, a Buddhist quest for enlightenment, a New Age spiritual pilgrimage, a secular myth, as well as a critique of organized religion in general.

According to William J. Bausch, the elements of a spiritual journey are "the holy discontent, the call, the beginning of the venture, insight and allies." [1]Because all of these elements are in place in The Wizard of Oz, Bausch uses this familiar story of Dorothy's trek along the yellow brick road to shed light on how people can successfully negotiate their own spiritual journeys. Despite the familiarity of life in Kansas, Dorothy wondered what life offered beyond the bounds of her experience—she wondered what was "over the rainbow." According to Bausch, this was Dorothy's holy discontent, and her call to action took the form of a tornado. He suggests that many of us experience similar feelings, but our call to adventure is often more subtle than Dorothy's. Often, a person has to reach some sort of impasse in their life to spur them to begin their own spiritual journey. We must face the challenges of the spiritual journey, much like Dorothy confronted her own demons ("lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"). She soon realizes, however, that she can't take this on alone and she finds companions to accompany her on her journey. Bausch argues that we need a "faith-sharing community—people who think the spiritual life is real."

Interestingly, most of the spiritual interpretations of The Wizard of Oz do not take a Christian perspective. Joey Green suggests that The Wizard of Oz illustrates the Buddhist search for enlightenment in his book The Zen of Oz: Ten Spiritual Lessons from Over the Rainbow. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, is the Zen master who sends Dorothy on her journey down the yellow brick road toward enlightenment. Dorothy's search for self-discovery inspires others along the way, and they learn to leave their conscious yearning behind. Dorothy eventually achieves satori and finds oneness with the Universe, or as it is expressed in Baum's story, she finds her way home. Green's ten spiritual lessons from The Wizard of Oz are his interpretation the major themes and events of the story, illustrating some aspect of Buddhist practice and belief. Dorothy's ruby slippers represent the "inner spark" we all possess. Glinda tells Dorothy never to let the ruby slippers off her feet, meaning that Dorothy should not let go of her passion for life and her potential for enlightenment. To "Follow the yellow brick road" serves as Dorothy's mantra on her journey. Dorothy's return home—her awakening—symbolizes her enlightenment. [2]

In Spiritual Journeys Along the Yellow Brick Road , Darren John Main suggests that The Wizard of Oz contains a timeless truth that transcends culture. Dorothy's journey is the sort of archetypal pilgrimage found across all religions. Revealing a distrust of organized religion, Main suggests that the wizard represents Dorothy's religion. He quotes from How to Talk Dirty and Influence People by Lenny Bruce, "people are leaving the church and finding God." [3]To Main, the purpose of following the yellow brick road is to find one's own spiritual path—and the journey is the destination. Dorothy represents the soul and her ruby slippers represent our "spiritual inheritance," a gift that each soul is given. The Good Witch of the North provides Dorothy with guidance but allows her to make her own discoveries. To make this journey, Dorothy needs to draw on her intellect (represented by the Scarecrow), her love (represented by the Tin Man) and her courage (represented by the Cowardly Lion).

Jesse Stewart makes a similar argument, suggesting that The Wizard of Oz serves as "a map for the modern spiritual journey." [4]Dorothy is an orphan and longs for her true home. In a sense, argues Stewart, we all experience this "longing of life"—we are all spiritual orphans searching for our true home. [5]Toto is Dorothy's dearest companion, so when Almira Gulch threatens to take Toto away, Dorothy experiences a crisis that sets her off on her journey. She gets caught in a tornado that takes her from her outer world (Kansas) to her inner world (Oz). Dorothy's inner and outer worlds are connected, and Oz contains reflections of the characters and events of her life in Kansas. The death of the Wicked Witch of the East symbolizes the end of Dorothy's dependence on others and her decision to go off on her own. Once in Oz, though, Dorothy's desire is to return home, bringing together her inner and outer worlds. Glinda, the "wise one," instructs her to "follow the yellow brick road," which spirals outward, in contrast to the inward spiral of the tornado that brought Dorothy to Oz. These spirals represent chaos and creativity, one of a number of dualities that Dorothy encounters on her journey. Along the way Dorothy meets characters that each represent a part of the physical body, though incomplete. The Scarecrow represents the head, but it is lacking a brain, the Tin Man represents the chest though it lacks a heart, and the Cowardly Lion stands for powerful limbs despite the lack of courage. These characters also each represent a part of Dorothy's "threefold soul:" thinking, feeling and will. Just as she must bring together her inner and outer worlds, Dorothy must integrate these parts of her soul. Dorothy must overcome a number of challenges to achieve her awakening, her "higher self realization." All of these images taken together form a mandala symbolizing Dorothy's journey.

It is interesting to note that most of the recent books emphasize Dorothy's success in completing her spiritual journey, but one of the first analysts to look at The Wizard of Oz from a spiritual perspective saw it as a critique of organized religion. In "Waiting for Godoz: A Post-Nasal Deconstruction of The Wizard of Oz" (OK, so the title is a bit much), David Downing notes that like many people, Dorothy is dissatisfied with her life and longs for something more. Downing suggests that her desire to find something better "over the rainbow" is the sort of escapism that organized religion indulges. But Dorothy soon finds that that her fantasy world, Oz, is even more flawed than the real world. She sets off on a "grail-like quest" with companions, all of whom have a similar sort of spiritual emptiness. They go to meet the Wizard in a cathedral-like setting, but they discover that his image is an illusion. Downing asserts "The implication is that the religious quest fulfills psychological needs regardless of its actual truth." [6]

1. ^ William J. Bausch, The Yellow Brick Road: A Storyteller's Approach to the Spiritual Journey (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1999), p. 16.
2. ^ Joey Green, The Zen of Oz: Ten Spiritual Lessons from Over the Rainbow (Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1998).
3. ^ Darren John Main, Spiritual Journeys Along the Yellow Brick Road (Tallahassee, FL: Findhorn Press, 2000), p. 39.
4. ^ Jesse Stewart, Secrets of the Yellow Brick Road: A Map for the Modern Spiritual Journey (Hygrene, CO: Sunshine Press Publications, 1997), p. 10.
5. ^ Stewart, pp. 13-18.
6. ^ David Downing, "Waiting for Godoz: A Post-Nasal Deconstruction of The Wizard of Oz" Christianity and Literature 33 (1984), pp. 28-30, quoted in Paul Nathanson, Over the Rainbow: The Wizard of Oz as a Secular Myth of America (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), pp. 11-13.