Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine

Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine

by Ray Kurzweil

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Overview

USA Today Top 150 Best Seller
Publishers Weekly Best Seller


Ray Kurzweil, legendary inventor and author of New York Times bestsellers The Singularity is Near and How to Create a Mind, has created inventions and ideas that have changed human civilization. PBS called him "One of the revolutionaries who made America," and Inc. magazine name him "Edison's rightful heir." 

Now Kurzweil has created a novel and an unforgettable character-Danielle-to help convey some of his most important ideas. Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine, tells the story of a precocious young girl who uses her intelligence and accelerating technology to solve humanity's grandest challenges. Now if only we can find more courageous visionaries like Danielle. 

Written as an alternative history, Danielle's journey as a driven young girl brings her face to face with many important figures from recent history and our modern world. Told through the eyes of Danielle's equally remarkable sister Claire, a girl adopted from Haiti after surviving the earthquake, this story shows all readers a hopeful vision of humanity's future-and how to achieve it. 

The novel features 24 graphic novel-style illustrations, one for each year of Danielle's life, by New Yorker cartoonist and Ray's daughter, Amy Kurzweil (author of Flying Couch: A Graphic Memoir, a New York Times Editor's Pick and Best of 2016).

Accompanying the novel are two nonfiction companion works by the author, which is a literary first. Included in this volume is How You Can Be A Danielle, bound in the same volume as the novel, is a call to action, providing pragmatic, thought-provoking and clear guidance on how readers can be inspired to emulate Danielle and help bring about a better world. A separate volume, A Chronicle of Ideas: A Guide for Superheroines (and Superheroes) provides Kurzweil's-and Danielle's-unique spin on 282 concepts presented in the novel.  A Chronicle of Ideas is sold separately. See DanielleWorld.com for more information.
A Chronicle of Ideas and How You Can Be a Danielle are available to read for free on DanielleWorld.com.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781614756392
Publisher: WordFire Press
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Pages: 472
Sales rank: 54,573
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.60(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Ray Kurzweil is one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists, with a thirty-year track record of accurate predictions. Called "the restless genius" by The Wall Street Journal and "the ultimate thinking machine" by Forbes magazine, he was selected as one of the top entrepreneurs by Inc. magazine, which described him as the "rightful heir to Thomas Edison." PBS selected him as one of the "sixteen revolutionaries who made America."

Ray was the principal inventor of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. 

Among Ray’s many honors, he received a Grammy Award for outstanding achievements in music technology; he is the recipient of the National Medal of Technology, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, holds twenty-one honorary Doctorates, and honors from three U.S. presidents. 

Ray has written five national best-selling books, including New York Times best sellers The Singularity Is Near (2005) and How To Create A Mind (2012).   He is Co-Founder and Chancellor of Singularity University and a Director of Engineering at Google heading up a team developing machine intelligence and natural language understanding.  

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

AGE ZERO AND ONE: MAYBE SHE'S DIFFERENT

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.

VICTOR HUGO

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.

WINSTON CHURCHILL

I remember like it was yesterday. Danielle and my dialogue with Colonel Qaddafi. Her challenge to the Madrassa schools. Her confrontation with the Food and Drug Administration. Her arrest. Her taking on the Red Army. The death of her collaborator and soul mate. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning.

* * *

Hi, I'm Claire. Let me tell you how Danielle came to be my sister. I was six years old and school had ended at two in the afternoon. I was sitting on the dirt floor in the factory — the only after-school program I ever knew — next to Mum with her sewing machine, playing with my favorite and pretty much only possessions, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and my guitar. My book was in English, and everyone seemed quite impressed I could read it by myself. My guitar was a small square white box with a round hole. It must have been a wooden crayon box once because it still had the telltale scribblings. Someone had glued on a fingerboard, head, and strings, and it worked surprisingly well. I found it discarded in the factory's trash, and Mum's musician friends fixed the dents and polished out the scratches. It was missing a string and I was still hoping to find it.

I often played and sang for the women in the factory as they sewed button-up blouses and long skirts, which I imagined swaying on the hips of their future owners. Most of the women started smiling whenever I sang for them. I like to think it made their work less dull. Some of them hummed along. Others tapped their feet. I would look out over my "audience" and imagine I was singing in a huge concert hall. In front of me, rows of women at sewing machines, dangling electrical wires, and colorful garments of bold red, blue, green, and white hanging from clothes lines, stretched as far as I could see.

How I loved my music, even back then.

I remember Mum sewing a white dress with blue thread that day. She told me how proud she was of the new song I was playing on my guitar. I can't remember the tune, I had just made it up. Everyone was grinning by the time I finished singing. Several women even paused in their sewing to applaud.

Suddenly the building shook and Mum's cup of coffee fell on me. I cried out as the liquid burned my face. The cup went flying against the sewing machine stand where it smashed into a million pieces. Then the building exploded, the Earth shook, and the ground opened up. I remember thinking that I was like Alice. I found myself falling down the rabbit hole, and I ended up in a totally dark place filled with obstacles — stones, sharp needles, metal gears, buttons flying like bullets, wires, dripping oil, chunks of the walls and ceilings. When I tell this story people assume I must have been terrified, and I suppose I was, but the whole thing was so strange and happened so fast I felt like I'd woken up in my book.

"Mum ... where are you ...? Mum ...?"

No one responded. I didn't panic. I assumed this was some kind of game where I was supposed to find her. I felt around in the dark, pushing things out of my way, at least those objects that would yield to the strength of a six-year-old. I moved from one dark space to another, expecting to see a hookah-smoking caterpillar at any moment.

I didn't realize I was being watched by some man named Richard who'd come to Haiti to help start a school, but quickly shifted to helping with the earthquake rescue operation. He could see me as a blurry image using a special radar that was looking for survivors. Later, he said I "looked like a fetal sonogram." People dismissed the moving image as a trapped dog under the rubble. But as the story goes, Richard disagreed. "No, it's not moving like an animal. That's a small person — probably all alone. We're going to find that child ... and if she has no one and nowhere to go ... we'll adopt her." People kind of doubt the adoption prediction part of the story now, but I'm sure it's true.

I fell asleep in my Wonderland using ripped clothes as a mattress. There was a large chunk of cement next to me which was a good thing since that's what probably prevented me from being crushed. I was woken by the frantic sounds of local volunteers moving boulders and bricks with their bare hands. When they finally pulled me from the wreckage, people just stared at me in amazement like I must be the Haitian Alice — except I could see this wasn't Wonderland. In the photo I have of my rescue, I'm covered in black soot, wearing shredded clothes, still holding onto my guitar.

"Where's Mum?" I asked.

"Well, let's find out," Richard said. "What's your name?"

"Claire Pierre-Louis."

"That's a lovely name," he told me. I remember him wearing a white T-shirt, which seemed to shine brightly in the midday sun and was only smeared with a few streaks of dirt compared to everything else, which was covered with grime. I recognized the entrance to the factory, which looked like a big barn door, but the rest of the factory was gone.

I find it painful now to think about the following hours — the waiting, the searching, the injured and dazed survivors, seeing all the people who didn't make it.

Finally, a somber Richard answered my question. "Your mum is sitting on your shoulder." I was perplexed at first, but I gradually understood what he meant. I looked down for what seemed like a lifetime, looked at my Mum sitting on my shoulder, and then gave Richard a hug. My mum sits there still.

A few days later, I was still in shock, but I understood Richard's proposal to me. "How about I be your Dad now?"

"Wow, I always wanted a Dad," I replied.

"And Sharon, my wife, could be another Mom. We'll take care of you while you take care of your Mum sitting on your shoulder."

I felt good about this — I figured the more Mums the merrier. I was concerned that Mum on my shoulder wouldn't like it, but she said that she did.

However, some of the local men I knew were not so enthusiastic. "Mèsi pou ede ou, men timoun nan rete isit la ..." Thanks for your help, but the child stays here. We don't want anybody stealing our children.

I looked around and saw one of the sewing machine stands lying on its side. It still had three of its legs so I set it straight and climbed up on it avoiding the big gash in the middle.

"But it's what I want!" I blurted out without even thinking. I felt like I was one of those grown-ups I had seen on the factory TV giving a speech, like that guy Mum told me was the most important man in America. "I love everyone. My heart will always be here. And I will be back."

Everyone was shocked at how mature I sounded, including me.

That's how I became Claire Pierre-Louis Calico at the age of six.

* * *

We lived in Pasadena, a suburb of Los Angeles, in a wood and glass house that smelled like onions, or at least that's what I can remember. Mom always cooked them in everything. To me, that became the smell of home. And home was also the sight of geraniums inside and outside the house. I loved those flowers. I love them still.

Dad explained to everyone that the house was built by "a guy named Frank Lloyd Wright." He's my favorite architect now. There was a winding stream that you could see from the huge window in the living room. Well, it was a fake stream, but I didn't realize that at the time. It was all rather different from the Cap-Haïtien tenement I was used to. Dad always says a water view is his one requirement for a home.

The one regret he had about the house is that with all the glass walls there wasn't enough wall space for Mom's photos of the family and his art collection, which includes Grandma Hannah's lovely flower paintings.

I had my own room which I decorated with posters of Haiti. There was a picture of a little girl who looked like me writing in her school book using a wooden bench as a desk, a picture of five women carrying baskets full of fruit on their heads, a man wading in the water with flowers of every color by the river bank. Everyone was smiling.

I felt lonely in this big room — I was used to sharing a bed with Mum in a room with three other families. Mum on my shoulder still shared my bed, but she didn't take up as much space as she used to. I enjoyed talking to her each night telling her about my day, but I missed the way her fingers would stroke my forehead and how her body would make the bed sag toward the middle. Instead of feeling lonely, I thought I should be praying to God, thanking him for rescuing me, but Mum said she would take care of that.

* * *

Danielle came along the biological way two years later when I was eight. I remember Mom, Dad, and me rushing to the hospital at one in the morning. Mom just put on the fancy black coat she wore to parties over her flannel nightgown. Dad seemed to be ready for this moment and was all dressed and holding the labor bag. I threw my gym outfit on over my pajamas, which looked ridiculous.

When we got to the hospital, I was left in a huge white waiting room with a nurse's assistant. I thought I would go crazy waiting for what I figured would be a long night. I counted the number of large white tiles — there were eight rows of six. I counted them again and again. I timed myself to see how much time I could use up this way, but it was only two minutes for each scan of the forty-eight tiles.

But Danielle, who never hesitated to move ahead when she decided to do something, popped out before I had counted the tiles a hundred times. I was hurried into a room and immediately fell in love.

She was swaddled in a floral blanket and had a full head of dark hair. Mom told me that a newborn's expressions are not intentional, but I could have sworn that her beautiful "o" shaped mouth was telling me how amazing she thought the world was. There was not a whimper or a cry. I remember imagining her as a wise old woman, patiently looking out at the world.

* * *

Danielle's precociousness was clear from the get-go.

I remember when she was three months old, she played a looking game with me, her own invention. I'd look at her and she'd quickly look away. Then when I looked away, she would look at me, but when I tried to catch her she'd turn away again. She invariably won, catching me glancing at her. Each time that happened, she broke out in a big smile as if to say, Gotcha.

By six months, she had her favorite dolls to whom she was fiercely loyal. She would line them up as if they were her students. Carousels and busy boxes held no interest for her, or, I should say, they interested her for a few minutes and then were cast aside forever.

She loved to play with books of any shape and description. She often sat in the middle of her room on the floor turning the pages, making exaggerated reactions like a mime. Apparently she was mimicking the responses she'd seen Mom, Dad, and me make while reading.

By fifteen months, her book collection had expanded with those stolen from around the house, including some grown-up volumes that were larger than she was. I would try to look over her shoulder to see if there was any correlation between her reactions and what was actually on the page she was looking at, but she would close the book when I came around as if I were trying to sneak a peek at her personal diary.

She almost never cried, but expressed her displeasure by making a mad face. She kept looking through books voraciously and doing her pretend reading, imitating adult reactions, and I kept trying to see exactly what she was reading. This, too, became a game. Once she suddenly turned the book around as if to say, Okay, nosey, here! The book was upside down. I wonder to this day if she did that to throw me off.

"Maybe, she's ... different," I heard Mom say to Dad with a furrowed brow one night after dinner. "She doesn't even talk yet." They didn't know I was behind the door that led from the kitchen to the mess room, which is where I always hid when I wanted to listen to them.

"Oh, she's different all right," Dad replied. "But I wouldn't fret about her talking."

"And walking?" Mom added.

"She'll talk when she has something to say," Dad replied.

"And walk when she has someplace to go?" Mom added.

"Exactly."

* * *

Danielle liked to fall asleep by curling herself into a tight ball on my lap. I enjoyed this, but it presented a bit of a dilemma if I wanted to do something else. Many nights, I just fell asleep myself with her lying there.

CHAPTER 2

AGE TWO: DANIELLE IN WONDERLAND

Danielle still didn't talk or walk, although she could crawl faster than most two-year-olds could walk. Nonetheless, it interfered with her social life. Other two-year-olds didn't want to make friends with a girl who still acted like a baby.

Mom found it challenging to find other kids to attend her second birthday party, something that Danielle seemed to be aware of. Mom invited three other kids, cousin James who was one, and the two-year-old twins Rachel and Ryann from next door. Mom put up streamers and balloons, but was not smiling. I remember finding it a bit embarrassing as there wasn't much of a party spirit. Danielle didn't smile either. I tried to engage the kids in games like pin the tail on the donkey, but it was not my most successful party.

* * *

"I've asked Dr. Sonis to come over tomorrow," Mom said to Dad that evening in one of their many conversations about Danielle's "differences."

"Well that won't hurt, but I really don't think it's necessary," Dad replied. "Anyway, you're the child psychologist."

"I can't evaluate my own child," Mom said. "Maybe I'm too close to the situation. I just don't know what we should be doing with her."

Most evenings, we ate dinner in the dining room by a panoramic window that overlooked the stream. I was usually assigned to help Mom set the table. Mom took pride in having everything in place before we sat down to eat. My specialty was folding the cloth napkins to look like little mountains. I kind of took these dinners for granted back then, but they're among my fondest memories now.

Dr. Sonis made his visit. I could swear there was a smirk on Danielle's face as she was introduced to him. She quickly pressed him into service, sitting three of her dolls on his knee, putting aprons on them and serving them tea. I was invited to join the party and showed off my napkin folding skills.

The next evening at dinner, I talked with Mom and Dad About Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which was still my favorite book. "The Caterpillar is a really interesting character," I pointed out.

"He gives Alice a hard time, don't you think?" Dad chimed in.

"He gives everyone a hard time," I replied.

Mom smiled at my reply. She once told me that she loved listening to conversations, because it gave her a gauge of how children were developing.

Dad settled in to enjoy our debate. "But his rudeness seems mostly directed at Alice."

"The Caterpillar didn't understand Alice very well when they first met," I replied, "which explains why he was so rude to her."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Danielle suddenly said. "He's the know-it-all. Kind of like you, Mom, and Dad. He always seems to say what's coming."

Mom dropped the wooden bowl of berries she was about to serve. A blizzard of blueberries bounced across the table. Most of them ended up in Danielle's and my laps.

Dad gave Mom a look like, What did I tell you? and calmly asked Danielle, "So how come he always knows what's going to happen?"

"Cuz he's the one who makes it happen," Danielle declared.

Mom's eyes sparkled with fascination. She still stood there with her mouth agape. No one cleaned up the blueberries.

"What makes you say the Caterpillar is like Mom and Dad?" I asked.

"He's always trying to teach Alice a lesson," Danielle replied. "Like he gives her the mushroom to make her bigger, and she learns that there is more to growing up than just being big."

"Wow, that's quite a message," I said.

Danielle replied, "Well, it's the Cheshire Cat who actually explains it to Alice, but it's the Caterpillar's lesson."

Composing herself, Mom asked, "What about the White Rabbit? Do you like him?"

"Not really," Danielle answered. "He acts kind of like a big shot. He's not very nice to the people who work for him, but he's kind of fake-nice to the even bigger shots, like the Queen of Hearts."

"Good point, darling," Mom replied. "It's not very nice to be fake-nice."

"Yeah," Danielle said. "I read about a guy who called that obsequious."

Tears streamed from Mom's eyes, I couldn't tell for sure if she was happy or sad, but I think it was both.

"What guy?" I asked.

"Oh, I think his name is Ronald. It was in a book called Wonderland Revisited."

"Hey, that's my book," I said, "I was wondering where it went."

"It's such a cool word," Danielle added. "Ob-see-quee-us, ob-see-quee-us ... Sounds kind of like what it means."

"That's onomatopoeia, Danielle," Dad replied calmly.

"Obsequious is onomatopoeia?" Danielle asked.

"What Dad means is that obsequious is an example of onomatopoeia, a word that sounds like what it means."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Danielle"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Ray Kurzweil.
Excerpted by permission of WordFire Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine,
Preface by Ray Kurzweil,
Introduction,
I. Dancing on Quicksand,
1. Age Zero and One: Maybe She's Different,
2. Age Two: Danielle in Wonderland,
3. Age Three: A Pig in Mud,
4. Age Four: No One Seemed to Notice,
5. Age Five: The Price of Being Fair,
6. Age Six: Making Good Use of the Sewers,
7. Age Seven: Burying the Evidence of a Crime,
8. Age Eight: I'll Be Back Shortly ... as a Girl,
9. Age Nine: Be Kind. Be Smart.,
10. Age Ten: Sorry About Blowing up Your Car with You in It,
11. Age Eleven: Never Again,
II. Bounding the Great Wall,
12. Age Twelve: A Hidden Dance of Pairs,
13. Age Thirteen: I'll Break Its Legs If I Have To,
14. Age Fourteen: An Unrelenting Finality,
15. Age Fifteen: Chairgirl,
16. Age Sixteen: Best Male Singer,
17. Age Seventeen: Chinese Democracy Must Have Chinese Features,
18. Age Eighteen: Today Will End Three Days from Now,
19. Age Nineteen: We Are Fallible, Are We Not?,
20. Age Twenty: Only Sometimes, Words Storm,
21. Age Twenty-One: That Freshly Kissed Look,
22. Age Twenty-Two: Forever Hold the Peace,
How You Can Be a Danielle,
Title Graphic,
Preface to How You Can Be a Danielle,
1. and Learn to Program Computers from a Young Age,
2. and Help Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation,
3. and Promote Democracy in China,
4. and Promote Nuclear Disarmament,
5. and Record Your Life,
6. and Advance Critical Thinking,
7. and Combat Totalitarianism in the World,
8. and Promote Racial and Gender Equality,
9. and Prevent Future Genocides,
10. and Harness the Wisdom of Crowds,
11. and Help Promote Peace in the Middle East,
12. and Combat Drought and Polluted Water in Poor Nations,
13. and Become a Physicist,
14. and Help Cure Cancer,
15. and Start Your Own Company,
16. and Advance Artificial Intelligence,
17. and Help Cure Heart Disease,
18. and Promote Peace and Understanding in the World,
19. and Foster Learn by Doing,
20. and Encourage Women and Girls to Pursue STEM Careers,
21. and Help Promote Equal Rights for Women,
22. and Help the People in Developing Nations,
23. and Promote World Health,
Acknowledgments,
About the Author,
If You Liked Danielle: Chronicles of a Superheroine,
Also by ...,

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