Characters, Places, & References to Characters

CHARACTERS

Leitis Suanna DennettCDC scientist, protagonist
Izobel GoodersonLeitis’s mother, U.S. citizen born abroad
Thelma J. GreysonDirector at new health center; a Scottish immigrant
Dr. Saddam AbbassiLead medical doctor at new health center; a Sufi immigrant
Patrick MurphyResident at new health center; Irish-American from Boston, Massachusetts
Mary ConleyMurphy’s daughter
Mr. AilesConcierge of new health center
Hisao HatoriCDC scientist; Rapid Response team leader
Dr. Amador AcierWHO senior scientist
Becky ShortLeitis’s childhood friend
Dr. Mark DennettLeitis’s spouse and Director of NIH Fogarty International Center
Dr. J. R. PatelEnvironmental chemist, Duke University; Rapid Response team
Dr. Drew Hopkins-CarrBiomedical engineer, University of South Carolina; Rapid Response team; fourth generation North Carolinan
Dr. Ariel ArionMolecular scientist at new health center
Hormisdas IIPope
Barend HeeseDutch scientist; Rapid Response team
Guido Luca SalvatoreItalian citizen
Giovanni BaggioItalian scientist; Rapid Response team
Jacque LaFabreFrench scientist; Rapid Response team
Francoise d’AubigneFrench scientist; Rapid Response team
Maria & Giovanni PollioSiblings

Places

Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Durham, North Carolina
University of North Carolina
The Vatican, Italy
Lakeside Restorative Research Center ( LRCC), aka Lakeside Center fictitious
Cretone, Italy
Castillo B&B
Villa Gregoriana, Italy
Tivoli, Italy
Aeotera New Zealand
Raleigh-Durham International Airport, North Carolina
Rome, Italy
Leonardo da Vinci Airport
Apostolic Palace
Raphael Rooms at the Vatican
Le Cento Fontane, Tivoli, Italy
Cretone, Italy
Monte Zappi, Italy
Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Italy
B&B Catello
Palombara, Italy
Marcellina, Italy
Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi
Valle de Anton, Panama
El Boquete, Panama
Piazza Nazionale, Cretone, Italy
Lucretili Mons, mountain range in Italy
Monte Zappi, mountain in Italy
Monte Castillo Natural Reserve, Italy
Ural Mountain range, Iran/Iraq
Pontic-Caspain Steppe
Zargos Mountains
Mt. Gennato
Villa Adriana, Italy
La Yeghada, volcano in Panama
Temple of Sibilla, Itly
Mount Behistun, Iran
San Polo dei Cavalieri, Italy

Characters Referenced

(Non-fictitious characters appear in boldface font)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower34th U.S. President of pardo heritage and who considered himself a progressive conservative
President
Barack Obama
44th U.S. President, African-American and who was considered a progressive moderate
President
John F. Kennedy
35th U.S. President, Democrat
President
Richard Nixon
37th U.S. President, Republican
George
H.W. Bush
CIA agent, National Clandestine Services program
Harry OswaldCIA operative, National Clandestine Services program
Tracie
DeFreitas Saab
Consultant at West Virginia University, West Virginia
SusanGrandaughter of President Eisenhower
President GrafFictitious president of the 21st century
LabryCEO of a leading chemical company
Izobel’s Maternal family branchSarah Ramona, Illa, Meira, Illa Ester, Mercedes
SaritaIzobel’s cousin
Martin Luther King, Jr.American activist and author of Strength to Love
Andras KalmarIzobel’s father (aka Andrew King)
Mr. KaskaCivilian personnelist at U.S. military installation in Panama, Pacific side
Mr. RojasSoldier of the Panama Independence War from Colombia
PetsSatto, Rodrigo, Placido, Luciano, Onza,
Bill YatesIlla Ester’s fiancé
Alberto TobaliIlla Ester’s college boyfriend
EnriqueIlla Ester’s husband
RhodaCharacter in the film, “The Bad Seed”
Diallo EvansElementary friend of Leitis
Alan BeschnerIzobel’s high school boyfriend
Dr. PhillipsLeitist’s mentor
William Henry HudsonAuthor of Green Mansions
EricIzobel’s paramour
BrentIzobel’s ex-husband and Leitis’s father
GeoffIzobel’s second ex-husband
CassiusGeoff’s life-long friend
Aunt HelenAndras Kalmar’s sister
ArtistsFrancesco Clemente, Margherite Morgantin, Willy Verginer
The GasnarHungarian refugees
RodneyIzobel’s fiancé
Nathan ThomasIzobel’s former paramour
The 14th
Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama
Pat DownehillIzobel’s nemesis
Vinny RussoCustom corrupt officer
George FenceCustom corrupt officer
Daniel and NebuchadnezzarCharacters in the Hebrew Scriptures
RoxanneLeitis’s office nemesis
Dr. AnnisSocial science professor
Historians on the Third ReichJohn Cornwell, Fritz Stern, Ian Kershaw, and
Will L. Shirer
Paul WellstoneSenator of Minnesota
Albert DeSantiFounding and director of a secondary therapeutic boarding school
Governor
William Clayburn
Presidential candidate
O’SullivanPolitical operative
Aurora MarchesiAdministrative contact at The Holy See
Miguel RuizAuthor of neoshamanistic texts
Ruby LeeProprietor of a Montessori school
Theodore Vicenzo DavisIzobel’s last partner (aka Ted)
Nikola TeslaSerbian-American engineer and futurist
Claude SteinerAuthor of The Original Warm Fuzzy, a fairy tale
Emperor Kaiser WilhelmLast German Emperor and King of Prussia
Adolf Hitler
Heinrich Himmler
Carl DuisbergCEO of Bayer
Robert DougleThelma’s husband
EnlilSumerian god of wind….
Andrea Mantegna16th century Italian painter (The Lamentation over the Dead Christ)
Plato & AristotleGreek philosophers
Abalion PollioRabbi
Marcus Vitruvius PollioMilitary Roman architect
Ippolito II d’EsteRoman Governor and Cardinal
Roman legendsMars, Herukles, Romulus, Remus
Luigi de GonzagaSt. Aloysius
Helen Koch QuittnerResidential patient at new health center
Mrs. M. GrieveMaud; herbalist, folklorist, and writer
Andrew Carr, Jr.Drew’s son
Phoebe CarrDrew’s daughter
Alfredo VargasCharge d’affaires in Tehran, Iran
HadrianItalo-Hispanic Emperor of Rome
Eleanor RooseveltAmerican political figure, diplomat, activist, and First Lady 
RaphaelItalian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, Italy
Darius I“Darius the Great,” third Persian king of the kings of the Achaemenid Empire
Alexander the GreatKing of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty
Shakyamuni Buddha
The Saka tribesPrimary Scythians in ancient times

Blog on Choir of Cloistered Canaries

Is this historical novel a dystopia?

It comes close to being one, for the cloistered canaries are us in the only home we have, planet Earth. In our lives, we all face many challenges, uncertainties, confusion, and victimization without knowing it as polluters continue to burden society by releasing more toxins into the air. As proverbial canaries in the coal mine, we want clean air to breathe so that we can live healthy lives. But when we are exposed to air pollution, expect the unexpected – diseases that remain elusive as greedy corporations manipulate government policies so that these preventable diseases can remain unspecified. This is the backdrop of the novel as the characters search for means to survive in an unpredictable world.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. An estimated 6.5 million premature deaths (1 out of 9 people) globally are linked to ambient air pollution, mainly from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections in children. In addition, household air pollution (for example, volatile organic compounds (VOC) in personal hygiene and household products) is one of the leading causes of disease and premature death in the world. Over four million deaths are attributed to household air pollution annually. For example, fifty percent of pneumonia deaths in children under five are due to household air pollution. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The novel introduces the reader to many characters described in a forthcoming blog and to alchemy – an ancient branch of natural philosophy, a philosophical and proto-scientific tradition that was pursued throughout Europe, Africa, Asia Minor, and Asia. Alchemists have attempted to purify, to develop, and to perfect certain materials in pursuit of prolonging longevity if not immortality. The practical aim of alchemy was to discover a cure for disease so as to extend life. Modern alchemy, however, takes place in illegal and legal drug laboratories: for example, opioids that include organic heroin or synthetic opioids such as fentanyl; prescribed pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.

The notion of purifying our mind stream to reach enlightenment, the original alchemy, was lost in translation. From a focus of attaining supra-consciousness, the focus became converting base metal into gold. The story touches on another form of alchemy practiced today – manufacturing synthetic chemicals to replace what nature had produced in synchronicity with diverse life forms.  

Since December 2019, the world has been faced with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) that has become pandemic. No one knows for sure the origin of the virus. The prevailing theory is that COVID-19 originated from a diseased wild animal while conspiracy theorists want us to believe it is a deliberate scheme by a nefarious laboratory seeking to blame government as a way to reduce the world’s population. The latter hyperbolic theory reminds me of a dog looking at where the bone is thrown instead of a lion looking at who threw the bone. As citizens on planet Earth, we need to look at who is throwing the bone to identify the source of these problems.

Notwithstanding, the saying, “the end justifies the means,” is not always justifiable. Good and moral acts (generated by good intentions) are those that contribute to the greatest amount of happiness and the least amount of suffering for the greatest amount of people. In other word, the “end justifies the means” when the moral gains of the ends are greater than the moral losses by the means (ethical altruism). Anything else is to say that, if the end is important enough to overrule any legal or moral limits (ethical egotism), it will have consequences detrimental to the welfare of others.

Let’s pay it forward for the benefit of others. It may mean consuming less and consuming consciously or other forces will be making the choices for you. Or at least, consuming consciously.

Overall, Choir of Cloistered Canaries is about love.

The Blog on Daughters of the Dance

Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss (1907-1908)

Is Novel Erotic Fiction?

Is Daughter of the Dance a curiosa, erotica, erotic fiction, or literotica? In answering the question, in a roundabout manner, indulge the author’s under girding reason for dealing with sex as she did while seeking to tell the story.

There was a curious moment the author had about twenty years ago at a Buddhist retreat when a young man went before the lama, asking if he has to visualize himself as a deity with his consort in union. When he was told that it was essential to visualize them in union, the young man was alarmed and left feeling frightened by the prospect. It was apparent among those who understood the practice that the young man was experiencing a strong aversion to it. Curiosity left the author wondering what had just happened, for she was a novice on Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism. She felt compelled to meet the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying when, what she read, rang true to her core. Beforehand, she did have an understanding of tantra, the art and skill of sexual bliss whose mystery, unfortunately, is lost by many because sex is still considered taboo with a titter or disgust or hypocrisy.

Tantra is highly misunderstood

Yab-Yum Weaving Energy

Tantra is highly misunderstood because the energy surrounding it is subtle but also powerful. In ancient Sanskrit, the term means “to weave energy” that makes a web. The definition seems to rise to the level of the quantum realm of the Unified Quantum Theory. In practice, to be in union is to weave the energy in such a way that the bliss experienced transcends both the sexual and spiritual planes without attachment in particular. It becomes deeply meditative, spontaneous, and intimate. As such, the couple is engaged in immeasurable sex in a tunneling vortex. Ancient Sanskrit defines it as Maithuna, the Grand Ritual of Tantra, not to be confused with ritualized sex or the Grand Unified Theory (the duality of the fields into a single physical field).  Our quantum physicists and neuroscientists have catch-up to do to understand how spirit (consciousness) and matter work together to bring harmony when the couple become “excellent or divine.” For cultures which did not consider that sex is the original sin, the minds of their scientific sages explored what, how, why, where, when, and how the sexual energy of attraction is weaved to recreate matter into a wave or to transcend its dualistic material away from the samsara realms of matter.

So, why did the author deal with human sexuality as she did? Was it for shock value? Perhaps. The historical nature and romance of the novel are counterpointed by the sexual relationships of love and rape, dignity and humiliation, partnership and slavery, pleasure and pain, reciprocity and domination. It is blatant as well as clever. The tension and drama sadly comes from one person dominating another.

When romance novelist Judith Krantz introduced her winning formula of mixing sand and shopping, she opened the door for other genre novelists to deal only with sexual and sensual subject matter. The author of Daughters of the Dance takes dancers of a spiritual tradition made erotic for the sole purpose of sexual arousal within the historical contexts from the 19th and 20th centuries. Five women are featured whose sexual struggles with high-powered men give a new dimension on how to heal sexually. But more importantly, the novel intends to arouse sexual desire to drive home how important, without substantially deal with the subject matter, it is to weave its energy that will break the wheel of birth-death-rebirth-death back into dualism that divides the sexes from knowing true harmony and bliss. The answer comes from the tantric Guru Rinpoche, a master of Buddhism during the 8th century. The union of his “divine parents” he described as “My father is the intrinsic awareness, Samantabhadra; and my mother is the ultimate sphere of reality Samantabhadri of non-duality of the sphere of awareness. I am from the unborn sphere of all phenomena and act in the way of the Buddhas of the three times.” The act once mastered breaks the chain of dualistic realms of rebirth.

Daughters of the Dance is not erotic fiction; it merely expresses sex in explicit language to prove a point and a goal–have neither attachment nor aversion toward the healthy sexual act.

Read the “Afterword” with understanding.

The Water Birthing of Nona

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Birthing in water has a long tradition

South Pacific Islanders, legend has it, gave birth in shallow seawater. (It was Hi’laka who gave birth to the ceremonial and sacred Hula dance and who carried to Hawaii from Tahiti an embryo egg in her arms as a child.) Even Egyptian royalty was born in water. In certain areas of the world today, women still give birth in special aquatic places like rivers. This is true in South America, the Caribbean, and Antilles for example. A practice at the time of labor in some Middle Eastern cultures was for the tribal women to undulate in a circle before the laboring mother-to-be to remind her to sense her contractions like the waves of the sea as a way to surrender to the contractions, allowing their energy to flow through her body. Ceremonies after birth help the woman both physically and emotionally to reintegrate her back into society and to integrate the newborn into the tribal community. These activities were designed to help her from falling into postpartum blues, depression, or psychosis. In some cultures, pomegranates, rich in antioxidants, are eaten as a ritual to symbolize fertility, prosperity, abundance, knowledge, and wisdom—attributes bestowed upon women to pass on to posterity.

According to folklore, one can construe that belly dancing is synonymous with the celebration of having a healthy birthing experience for the mother and child. Through observation and experience, women came up with a sacred, birthing wisdom (prenatal and postnatal) that was passed on from generation to generation. In the novel, Ayana’s mother, Dara, brought her tradition with her from Algeria to the New World.

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Habika became annoyed and told Dara, “Shoo . . . shoo! I control.”

The story of DAUGHTERS OF THE DANCE  (pp. 167-169) lends itself to having a main character, Ayana, give birth to her daughter in a shallow cove. The midwife, Habika, lovingly talks her through the natural process Ayana is to undergo. There was no traditional ritual and ceremony to be had; however, Habika took it upon herself to tell Ayana to dedicate her newborn to the transplanted male and female spirit deities of the Yoruba tribe of Africa. The whole birthing event is to be a part of nature, sanctified by the visiting cloud over the crater of dormant Mount Quill of St. Eustatius. Ayana, is the cloud, adding to the experience of connectivity to life.

Usually, the first experience of a woman’s labor can be terribly arduous and long. Being placed in lukewarm water, however, seems to gently speed up delivery and to reduce discomfort, which helps to deliver a happy baby, without all the trauma that modern birthing techniques can offer. Less likely to cry than babies born into the air, water-birthed babies are found to be calmer, eager to have eye contact with mother, and to breastfeed easily, according to doctors, doulas, and midwives. Going from womb (uterus) into the hands of a midwife and then into mother’s arms provide a peaceful journey. A newborn goes from a water environment (the amniotic fluid sac), through a moist birth canal of her vagina, into another water source, H2O, as it is then freed from his/her mother’s umbilical cord. These conclude stages one and two of giving birth—labor and delivery, respectively. And, it is amazing how a newborn does not inhale until exposed to air!

Moreover, timing is essential to the rhythm of separating the newborn from the placenta and the mother’s cord. It should be noted that it is erroneous to think that the baby comes from the placenta. The placenta exists outside of the baby and in the uterus.  The final stage of labor, after birth, is the passing of the placenta, which happens between 15 minutes to an hour after the baby is born. It is checked thoroughly to ensure that it is  intact, making for a healthy baby. If a piece of the placenta is left in the uterus, it could lead to serious complications for the mother and could even be toxic and lethal.

Nonetheless, if the baby experiences stress in the birth canal or if the umbilical cord becomes kinked or twisted, the baby might gasp for air with the possibility of inhaling water.

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In Ayana’s case, she has an advantage over other women. All her life, she was engaged in strengthening her ventre (her  womb), her pelvic area, and her legs. She danced, which involved doing slow, undulating, and rolling motions—such as hip circles, figure-of-eight movement, and the “camel” that facilitates the stomach to undulate. Such moves develop the fetus to move in a clock-wise fashion. With all this exercise comes proper deep breathing, which should be a daily habit. In any case, during pregnancy, a belly dancer is encouraged to move in slow motion and is discouraged from doing shimmies until she is near the time of delivery.

Muscular contractions that are strong and flexible are needed enough to expand and lengthen the muscles so as to help the labor along and to ease the birth. Placental blood flow is increased with such moderate movements, allowing the growing fetus to get more oxygen and nutrients delivered throughout its uterine life.

        The birthing journey requires us as women to get back to a sense of life basics where intuition and instinct are normal (rather than abstract) means of expression. When implemented in pregnancy and labour, the birth dance enables a woman to connect to her feminine source without fear or shame. | Maha Al Musa, a Middle Eastern woman and belly dancer

Sadly, women with medical problems such as thyroid disease, heart disease, hypertension, pre-eclampsia, placenta previa, a history of premature labor, and gestational diabetes should not have a water birth.

Also sad is that many women throughout the world are still exposed to abuse and high levels of disrespect that do not help a woman in childbirth and that do not ensure a positive psychology to bring up a child. In fact, such treatment can heighten the amount of pain experienced in childbirth. Just imagine what women, who are raped, forced to give birth of an infant by rape and/or incest, must endure! These events are unbearable to a woman, and her pain and trauma can psychologically impact the rearing of the child.

A new mother should be given her rightful place in her society as a goddess and deliverer of life. A quote from an educator on a proper birthing experience tells it all. Marie F.  Mongon says—

All natural birth has a purpose and a plan. Who would think of tearing open the chrysalis as the butterfly is emerging? Who would break the shell to pull the chick out?

Cultural sensitivity and awareness are a must to have a healthy society.  By way of example, an immigrant woman needs to feel very special during this time; her cultural beliefs need to be taken into consideration by western health practitioners instead of being frowned upon (another form of abuse).  For example, there are various rituals surrounding the umbilical cord of the new-born and the placenta. The novel points out this needed respect and certainty. One of the simplest rituals that can be adopted is to practice full-body massage on both the mother and infant for well-being. Most important is to keep the mother and child together—from birthing channel into arms and breasts for maximum bonding purposes.800px-Pregnancy_26_weeks_1

The whole point of giving birth is to bestow the knowledge that a woman is the power source to birthing. She may need, and deserve, help; essentially, it is the childbearing mother who has had that power. Welcome her and her child; embrace and empower them! Equality for and between both sexes (both opportunities and rights) will likely promote good health for most of humanity.  Until then, there will only be anger, anxiety, shame, cruelty, fear, sadness, distrust, war….

Why not opt to help change the world, beginning with the source (you and us) for a fulfilling, helpful, and happy life for all homo sapiens with a sense of certainty, expectation, contribution, love, connection, and growth to name a few needs we all have in common.

As a species, let us learn all the ways to nurture each other.

Dara’s Origins

Not everyone will glean from the novel that the matriarch Dara, a fictitious granddaughter of Ferdinand de Lesseps (a French diplomat and developer of the Suez and Panama Canals), has Sephardic roots

Ferdinand de Lesseps
Ferdinand de Lesseps a French       Sephardic Jew

In reading The Path between the Seas, by American historian David Gaub McCullough, it became more apparent to me that one of the reasons the reputation of Ferdinand and Charles de Lesseps was tarnished was due to their Jewish (Sephardic) origins. Édouard Adolphe Drumont, the French propaganda journalist, spread antisemitism via his “elephantine tract” of over 1,000 pages—La France Juive (Jewish France)—at the Universal Exposition of 1889 in France when antisemitism was rare. He claimed that “the sickness of modern France…was [caused by] the nation’s most treacherous human foe..the Jew”. His conspiracy theories of financial thievery by the de Lesseps family led to investigations, distrust, and perpetuated the persecution of Jews throughout Europe.

In 1854, Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo, secured an agreement with the Ottoman governor of Egypt to build a canal across the Isthmus of Suez. With a team of engineers, the Suez Canal Company was formed in 1856. In 1859, construction began and was completed in November 1869. In an attempt to repeat this success, he ventured to build the Panama Canal at sea level during the 1880s, but the project was devastated by epidemics of malaria and yellow fever in the isthmus, as well as beset by financial problems due to unforeseen delays. Consequently, the planned de Lesseps Panama Canal was never completed; and Drumont was partly responsible. Eventually, the project was bought out by the United States, which solved the medical problems and changed the design to a non-sea level canal with locks. It was completed in 1914.

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Vintage Dancer

The Sephardic bonding between Dara and Andres can thus be seen as almost inevitable.

As a reader, only you can imagine what Dara would have looked like at the turn of the 20th century.

A Lost Factoid in History

The U.S. Statue of Liberty was formally presented to the United States by Ferdinand de Lesseps, At a banquet, on June 11, 1884, given in honor of the Franco-American Union, he, as head of that Union, gave the following speech, saying:

This is the result of the devoted enthusiasm, the intelligence and the noblest sentiments which can inspire man. It is great in its conception, great in its execution, great in its proportions; let us hope that it will add, by its moral value, to the memories and sympathies that it is intended to perpetuate. We now transfer to you, Mr. Minister, [Levi P. Morton, the Minister of the United States to France] this great statue and trust that it may forever stand the pledge of friendship between France and the Great Republic of the United States.

 De Lesseps traveled to the United States to speak at the dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty, attended by President Grover Cleveland in October 1886.

From a Reviewer at Amazon

5f0c0b0660477986b22e70dad600be4fI thoroughly enjoyed the book. The characters were well developed and I felt a good understanding of each. It is obvious the author did research into history of dance,and especially history of Jews in the Islands which I found most interesting. The romances were interesting and did lend themselves to the story line. The author’s descriptive passages were well written. There was nothing I disliked about this book. I picked the book up because I liked the cover. I enjoy dancing, including belly dancing! The author did a wonderful job, and the book is unique in its historical content. I was pleasantly surprised. I do recommend this book highly!