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The Swimmers


GROSS: So as we heard in the reading, one of the swimmers, Alice, is in the early stages of dementia. And as the novel progresses, she loses more and more of her memory until she's moved to a facility. Your mother died of dementia-related causes. Was it frontotemporal dementia like in the book?




The Swimmers



GROSS: Could you tell that it was happening? Because that's one of the questions in the book. You know, like, for example, like, a crack appears in the pool that the swimmers go to. And the people wonder, you know, many of us remain anxious because the truth is we don't know what it is or what it means or if it has any meaning at all. Maybe the crack is just a crack, nothing more, nothing less. Maybe it's a rupture, a chasm. How deep is it? Who's to blame for it? Can we reverse it? And most importantly, why us? It's no coincidence, I'm sure, that those questions are the questions we ask when symptoms begin to appear. Like, does this have any meaning? Is it serious? Is it nothing? Am I exaggerating? If it's a problem, like, what or who is to blame for it? And, you know, and why me? Why us? Why is this happening to us?


This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, in for Terry Gross. Novelist Julie Otsuka has just been awarded the Carnegie Medal for Excellence for her book "The Swimmers." It's about a group of people who go to the local pool to escape from their problems. Vogue magazine and Kirkus Review listed the book as one of the year's best of 2022. It's now out in paperback. Otsuka's two previous novels were acclaimed, as well. "When The Emperor Was Divine" is based on the experiences of her mother and grandparents when they were forced into Japanese internment camps during World War II. Her book "The Buddha In The Attic," which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, is an historical novel about the women known as picture brides. These were women in the early 20th century who emigrated to America from Japan the only way they legally could, by marrying a man who already was living here. In Otsuka's latest novel, "The Swimmers," one of the swimmers is in the early stages of dementia. Terry Gross spoke with Julie Otsuka last year when her novel was first published.


I began cooking as a child and feeding family and friends has always been my passion. My kitchen is a busy one. I love to experiment and embrace the kitchen successes along with the accidents. I love to cook and collaborate with friends. I am seasonally driven (I love the farmer's market!), avoid processed foods and focus on whole and organic (mostly plant-based, but not exclusively) choices. In my home, my family has a variety of eating preferences from plant-based, gluten free, refined sugar free to full on omnivore. My goal is to create dishes to please all, either as is or with minor adjustments to the recipe. Where did "Feed the Swimmers" come from? When my kids began swimming competitively and growing into young adults, I realized, even more, how important nutrition is to performance, growth and overall health and emotional well being. Everyone (including the coach during travel meets) would ask "what are you feeding the swimmers?" This has become my mantra whenever I'm in my kitchen cooking for family and the friends I love.


Purpose of review: Swimmer's shoulder is the term used to describe the problem of shoulder pain in swimmers. Originally described as supraspinatus tendon impingement under the coracoacromial arch, it is now understood that several different pathologies can cause shoulder pain in competitive swimmers, including subacromial impingement syndrome, overuse and subsequent muscle fatigue, scapular dyskinesis, and laxity and instability.


Recent findings: Swimmers may develop increased shoulder laxity over time due to repetitive use. Such excessive laxity can decrease passive shoulder stability and lead to rotator cuff muscle overload, fatigue, and subsequent injury in order to properly control the translation of the humeral head. Generalized laxity can be present up to 62% of swimmers, while a moderate degree of multi-directional instability can be present in the majority. Laxity in swimmers can be due to a combination of underlying inherent anatomical factors as well as from repetitive overhead activity. The role of excessive laxity and muscle imbalance are crucial in the swimmer's shoulder and should be well understood since they are the primary target of the training and rehabilitation program.


The couple already in the lake were a middle-aged pair who seemed to bask in the suspicion that they might be training for an Iron Man. They were zealous runners, swimmers and cyclists, but they were not Iron Man competitors, yet when they were accused, as they sometimes were, of being hard core, it seemed to gratify and excite them.


A group of daily swimmers is thrown for a loop when a crack appears in the swimming pool they frequent. Among them is Alice, who is slowly losing herself to dementia. With her daily routine broken, Alice feels thrust into chaos as her childhood memories of being in a Japanese internment camp surface, and her daughter struggles to help her.


The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. But when a crack appears at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world without comfort or relief.


One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice's estranged daughter, reentering her mother's life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline.


Parents need to know that The Swimmers is a truly inspiring story -- based on real events -- about two refugee sisters, with scenes involving peril and sexual violence. Giving a voice to the under-represented, Yusra (Nathalie Issa) and Sarah Mardini (Manal Issa) are two sisters who flee the war in Syria for Europe. Defying the odds, the sisters are inspirational as they follow their dreams of becoming swimmers, and show great courage in the process. The film highlights some of the dangers refugees face, showing how people risk everything just to live a safer existence. There is one scene in particular, set on a dinghy, that is especially upsetting to watch as several characters' lives are threatened. The violence in the film extends to an attempted rape and a soldier groping a young woman. In Syria we see bombs going off, and snipers shooting at vehicles. There is occasional bad language and characters are seeing smoking shisha from a hookah pipe.


Yusra and Sara Mardini made headlines a few years back for helping to pull a boat of their fellow migrants across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. They were called "hero swimmers," but that wasn't the end of their stories.


In "The Swimmers," Yusra is played by Nathalie Issa, and Sara is portrayed by Manal Issa. They're competitive swimmers in Syria coached by their father, Ezzat Mardini (Ali Suliman), who dreams of both becoming Olympians and swimming for their nation. The story begins on Yusra's birthday in 2011 at the start of the Syrian Civil War before moving on to 2015 when the girls are a little older.


For example, height and long limbs are traits that are dictated by nature. People with these traits are better swimmers due to a natural advantage. However, other traits such as broad shoulders or strong legs are the result of training. Anyone can gain these traits through long hours of swimming. 041b061a72


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