Elevate Difference

Reviews by Sophie M. Lavoie

Sophie M. Lavoie conducts research in the areas of women’s writing and social change in Central America and the Caribbean. Her studies focus on women in contemporary Nicaragua during the first Sandinista era (1970-1990), but she is also interested in other revolutionary movements in the area, such as Cuba and El Salvador and in women’s writing in Latin America. Her current research project focuses on the link between women’s writing, empowerment, and revolutionary action during the Sandinista era in Nicaragua. Along with teaching Spanish and Latin American Studies in the Department of Culture and Language Studies at the University of New Brunsick, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, Sophie is also an associate faculty member in the International Development Studies program, the Women's Studies program, and the Film Studies Program.

Love, Honor, and Betray

Before I started to read it, this book held lots of promise; the cover tells of the author’s previous books being on the New York Times bestseller list. Unfortunately, I had not had the pleasure of reading any other of Kimberla Lawson Roby’s books. Since reading Love, Honor, and Betray, I have come to realize that one of its characters, the Reverend Curtis Black, was at the centre of a series of an eight books by the same author.

Women’s Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean: Engendering Social Justice, Democratizing Citizenship

One of the aims of the groundbreaking work Women’s Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean is the diffusion of the ideas of these mostly Latin-American scholars to a larger audience, thus the original 2006 Spanish-language volume’s translation and subsequent adaptation and expansion into English. However, it seems contradictory to the spirit of the project to start reviewing it without mentioning the authors here.

Los Canallas (Podría Ser Peor)

Los Canallas are a jolly group of scoundrels, featured in this film, written, shot, edited and promoted by a gang of enthusiastic Acting and Directing students. These young people make up the very first promotion of the newly minted film program in Ecuador. This strange and stimulating film received third place at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2008, for the best opera prima, and is now available to English-speaking audiences (and well subtitled, be it said in passing).


Beauty is the outstanding first novel of British author Raphael Selbourne, winner of the prestigious 2009 Costa First Novel Award (formerly known as the Whitbread Literary Awards). The novel’s plot is seemingly predictable–an illiterate girl runs away from an abusive home where she had been forced to marry a much older mullah (religious man) at the age of fourteen.

29: A Novel

If there is one book that will certainly be made into a successful film, it is this one. All the ingredients are there for an entertaining feature-length romp. The plot is quite simple: a seventy-five year old grandmother celebrates her birthday and, while blowing out her candles, makes a seemingly unattainable wish, to be twenty-nine again.

Stance: Ideas about Emotion, Style, and Meaning for the Study of Expressive Culture

My critical theory class from university seemed far away when I started reading Harris M. Berger’s study, Stance. In that course, Reception Theory was probably the most difficult one to grasp, with the most theoretically abstract readings, readings for the most part founded in philosophy. Realistically, the world does not know enough about the brain or perception, and cultural context varies considerably from person to person.

Encarnación: Illness and Body Politics in Chicana Feminist Literature

The pockmarks on the Aztec figure on the cover of Suzanne Bost’s Encarnación: Illness and Body Politics in Chicana Feminist Literature are a reminder of the proximity of disease, illness, and pain to death.

The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society

At a time when Western society is becoming more and more dependent on cheap and rapid sustenance of often dubious nutritional value, Janet Flammang’s study is an important reminder of both the way it was and the way it perhaps should be. In The Taste for Civilization, Flammang sets out to present what she calls “table activities” as central to respect, citizenship, and a greater good.

Acts of Narrative Resistance: Women's Autobiographical Writings in the Americas

Laura Beard’s study of women’s autobiography in its many forms, Acts of Narrative Resistance, is quite unique. There has to my knowledge never been a thorough single author study written which connected and compared such a variety of autobiographical texts from the Americas in Spanish, Portuguese, and English.

The Bathers

A collection of striking black and white stills, The Bathers is not just about the theme of bathers, but more importantly about the way women are portrayed and perceived.

Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963

When reading fictionalized journals, one never experiences the sense of the guilt that results from a real intrusion into someone’s private thoughts and personal life. The fictive writer simply does not exist. When the journal being read belongs to someone who has had a very real public persona, the reader will always experience a few uncomfortable moments. In reading Susan Sontag’s journals, this feeling is amplified tenfold.

The Cuban Revolution (1959-2009): Relations with Spain, the European Union, and the United States

Joaquín Roy’s study is, to my knowledge, the most comprehensive attempt to define Cuba’s relationship to the Western World (Europe and the U.S.) in the past fifty years. There is no question of its timely publication—to coincide with the fifty year anniversary of the Cuban Revolution (1959-2009).


There are a plethora of films which recount the arrival of distinct ethnic groups to America, ranging from the Eddie Murphy’s pathetic Coming to America to the Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Immigrant to the Patricia Riggen’s subtle _[Under The Same Moon](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00180IPM6?ie=UTF8&tag=feminrevie-20&lin

Black and Green: Afro-Colombians, Development, and Nature in the Pacific Lowlands

Black and Green is a publication based on Kiran Asher’s doctoral thesis in political science, a field she came to by ways of a masters in Environmental Management and much field experience in Costa Rica, Belize, China, and now Colombia.

Next of Kin: The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics

Anyone can tell you that family is important to Mexican and Chicano culture, and we can all venture guesses as to why. However, where exactly this family unit seems to be headed and how it has evolved in U.S. popular culture over the past 25-30 years is what Richard Rodríguez chooses to scrutinize in his study—and he does so with unexpected wit. Rodríguez's Next of Kin is structured into four chapters framed by an introduction and an afterword.

Sex Expression and American Women Writers, 1860-1940

The intriguing title of this book, Sex Expression and American Women Writers, may lead many to wonder what exactly the author means by “sex expression”? Luckily, Dale Bauer makes this clear in the introductory chapter to her study, and I will enlighten those of you who might not be able to immediately get the book. Sex expression is a clever way of defining the act of writing (or not) about questions relating to sexuality, a term not coined by Bauer.

A Narrative Compass: Stories That Guide Women’s Lives

When I read the back cover of A Narrative Compass, I thought it might be something nice to read before going to bed at night, and luckily, I was right. The texts this collection contains are great bedtime stories: attention grabbing, short, and self-contained. Reading it is a little bit like having all of your closest friends over for a gathering to talk about the stories you treasure from your youth, and how they have influenced you.

Women Build the Welfare State: Performing Charity and Creating Rights in Argentina, 1880-1955

Donna J. Guy is a distinguished Argentinean historian, and her book on women’s role in the welfare state (1880-1955) could not be timelier. In the past decades, human rights have often been thwarted in Argentina, producing the need for a reevaluation of women’s rights in South America.

Toward a Latina Feminism of the Americas: Repression and Resistance in Chicana and Mexicana Literature

Anna Marie Sandoval has written a very personal book: Toward a Latina Feminism of the Americas: Repression and Resistance in Chicana and Mexicana Literature. Can a book about such a scholarly topic be personal? In the preface and afterword (eighteen pages), Sandoval explains how. To summarize would be to remove the reader’s pleasure for those who will venture into her story.

United States of Tara

For those who might have been living in a remote village in the Amazonian jungle in 2007, Diablo Cody is an Oscar-winning screenwriter whose debut success, Juno, is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Its witty repartee and kooky characters were what made it so exceptional.

Toxic Trespass

Barri Cohen's filmic crusade for children's health, Toxic Trespass, starts with her 10-year-old daughter, Ada, announcing the results of her "body burden" blood test for chemical substances at a press conference. She says: "I am polluted." The results are dreadful for one so young, yet no one can reassure Ada about the consequences that these poisons will have on her health.