Two Years in the Kingdom- Making Silk

January 15, 2019

Hello All, and thanks for following me. Todays topic is Making Silk

SE Asia is known for many things and one of them is silk. Not far from Phnom Penh there is an island on the Mekong River that is called Silk Island. As the name implies, the island is known for silk production. Here there are people still producing silk from the worms and weaving it on large wooden looms. This island really has an island vibe that is relaxed and laid back even though it’s on a busy river.  To get to the island requires a series of ferries because as of yet there is no bridge. Silk production began thousands of years ago in China but was revolutionized with the invention of the loom. I suspect that the process has not changed much since then. As pictured here I am holding the silk worms in my hand. They make the cocoon that are the yellow looking cotton balls. The cocoons are placed in hot water so that the fiber of the cocoon is separated from the cocoon into a strand of silk. That strand is wound around the contraption that is pictured. Once enough of the silk is wound around it can then be woven into garments. You can see me attempting to weave some silk garment on one these large looms. It’s actually more complicated than one would think. To make the different patterns there are many pedals and levers on the loom. The silk is threaded through the loom using the spindle. Silk Island really feels like you are in another time and place where life was simpler and peaceful. A place where people live happy, quiet lives producing silk.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Cambodian Government.

This is a book review I had received from my one of my young adult novels “The Gift of Phineas Lake”. Kirkus is well known for their high standards in regards to book reviews since the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was very pleased with their review. Please take a moment and read this review. All ordering information is on this website.

A quick, compelling historical novel with a magical touch.

Rizzo uses historical figures and facts as the foundation for this suspenseful story within a story about the Underground Railroad and racial tension in antebellum industrial Pennsylvania. The book begins in 1897, when Jake and Gordy, two boys, get curious about an abandoned house in town—the former home of the titular Phineas Lake, who disappeared 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Though most adults discourage the boys from inquiring further, Gordy’s grandfather Cooper reveals that he was Phineas’ childhood best friend, and he’s just the first of many who begin to tell the boys about Phineas as they piece together the true story of what happened. Phineas had been blessed with a miraculous healing touch—able to cure any wound or illness with his hands alone—but he did his best to keep his gift a secret, since Rev. Davis, the village preacher, was quick to condemn such a thing as witchcraft. During the night,

however, Phineas would heal the freed slaves—the closest doctor refused to treat them—who worked at the iron furnace in town. After a nearby Underground Railroad conductor realized how Phineas’ skills could be used to help the exhausted and sick fugitives, Phineas (along with young Cooper) became a fugitive himself, only returning to town after a terrible storm brings on a deadly fever among the locals. The racist, magic-fearing Rev. Davis, however, hardly gives

him a warm homecoming; it isn’t long before he’s calling for Phineas to be killed. Rizzo’s story has plenty of momentum, and the boys’ eagerness to listen to each of Cooper’s tales works well, keeping the reader as enthralled as Jake and Gordy are. Though there’s not much historical nuance here, the book has an unassailable moral message that would be a great choice for YA readers with an interest in the history of American slavery.

A well-paced, engaging reimagining of antebellum Pennsylvania.

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