Freefall to Fly

One bad moment in a book has the potential to put a sour spin on the rest of a good story.  Freefall to Fly has one of those moments.  Rebekah Lyons’ tells her story of how she overcame fear and anxiety, but undercuts that story with one potentially dangerous assertion.  I wanted to like this memoir–but it isn’t safe.

#31daysofreading

With her husband and three kids, Lyons moves away from the comforts of living close to family and friends in the south to a completely foreign life in busy New York City.  The transition is difficult and she doesn’t handle it well.  She begins having panic attacks and wonders if the move had been a terrible mistake.

Lyons’ story is compelling and her writing interesting.  However, her conclusions about mental illness and how to deal with it run this book off the rails.  Consider the following quotes:

In our frailty, many of us don’t believe we can be free.  If we start to feel defeat and helplessness creeping in, we medicate, we numb out, we order our lives to escape our pain.  We seek comfort anywhere we can find it.  Our careers, a prescription, a cocktail bar, another person’s arms (135-136).”

“We are born with a large capacity for coping, especially when aided by human mechanisms.  Each incident we encounter thickens our skins a little more to take the next blow.  The more we medicate, the thicker the skin becomes.  Before we know it, we are staring through pain and tragedy with eyes that don’t blink, tears that don’t come, skin so tough we feel nothing (136).

I just don’t even know where to begin.  I think she’s confusing medication for, I don’t know, perhaps depression? These blanket statements about medication are flat-out wrong.  She bases these assertions about using medication to numb out on the experiences of people she knows, and especially the situation of her father who suffered from severe mental illness.  PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Anecdotes are not the same as facts.  Just because some of the people you know used medication as a way to avoid dealing with the problems in their lives does mean everyone uses medication as a way to avoid dealing with problems. Just because you (the author) might use medication to numb out does not mean that everyone who takes medication for depression is numbing out.

Telling readers that by taking medication for depression you are only trying to numb yourself is dangerous and wrong.  Lyons is entitled to her own opinion, but the editor and publisher (Tyndale House, a Christian publisher) who let that stand in the book were irresponsible and negligent.  Those with depression are struggling enough–they don’t need to be told the lie that medication isn’t necessary and that they just need to try harder to get better.  Would Lyons’ (and the many others who say medication for depression is an escape) tell someone with a broken leg that they just need to try harder to heal the broken bone?  Would you deprive someone of antibiotics for an infection and tell them that medication will just numb them?  Absolutely not.  Depression is real, and medication for depression can be exactly what someone needs to get on the path to healing.

I won’t tell you not to read this book.  I will tell you that if you do read this book, be discerning.  Once I read her thoughts on medication and mental health, I had a very hard time taking to heart any of her other conclusions.  In fact, I can barely remember anything else about the book.  This book was a disappointment.  


Freefall to Fly, Rebekah Lyons, 1-star, Christian memoir


Freefall to Fly

The World Outside

It’s strange to think about a book set in 1991 as historical fiction, but it was over 20 years ago.  The World Outside by Eva Wiseman, with the setting of a Hasidic community in 1991 New York, definitely falls into that genre.  I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately I only gave it a 2-star rating.

#31daysofreading

Teenager Chanie Altman is part of an ultra-conservative Jewish group living in New York in 1991.  Everyone in the community follows their rabbi with the utmost devotion, to the point of believing he is probably the messiah.  Chanie’s world is strictly controlled, but as is the case with most main characters in novels such as these, she yearns to break free from the restrictive rules.  She meets a boy, of course, who encourages her to use her never-trained yet amazing singing voice and apply to Juilliard.

The underlying conflict in this book is racial tension between the Hasidic community and African-Americans.  Chanie and her community are offensively racist, at least Chanie is until she meets and befriends an African-American girl her age, who shows her that she shouldn’t be so prejudiced.  If you can’t infer my implied eye roll at that plot point, know that I found it ridiculous.  I was intrigued to learn more about this conflict, based on real-life events, but it was so simplistically and unrealistically handled that I just couldn’t take it seriously.

The World Outside had a great starting point.  However, thanks to lazy story-telling and poor characterization, it just fell flat.  Other reviewers of this book claimed that Chanie and her group were unfairly and incorrectly portrayed.  I can’t speak to that particular claim, not being an expert in Hasidic Judaism, but overall I found the portrayal of the people and their community to be far too simplistic.  To top it off, I hated the ending.  It came out of nowhere and didn’t fit the story or the character.   The World Outside was a disappointment.


The World Outside, Eva Wiseman, 2-stars, historical young adult fiction


The World Outside

Difficult Men

When I began my new job, I started spending more time in the car driving to work.  I realized I needed to maximize all possible reading time in order to have a hope of finishing my 100 books in 2014.  The solution? Audiobooks.  Listening to a book on CD is a very different reading experience than visually reading a printed book or e-book.  I can’t flip ahead, or even get spoiled by accidentally reading further along on the page. I’m at the mercy of the pace of the narrator, but it’s a great way to challenge my brain to pay attention a little differently.

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I chose Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin as my first audiobook experiment because it caught my eye on the audiobook cart at the library.  I was going on a drive to Arkansas the next day and I wanted to be prepared for the drive with listening material.  Last year I read Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, a book on the same topic.  I loved reading the stories behind such popular TV shows, even ones I had never watched (and never plan to watch, like the Sopranos) and was interested to learn more from Difficult Men.

Where The Revolution Was Televised explored the background of a number of tv shows, Difficult Men focused specifically on the male creators and showrunners of tv dramas from what Martin calls the Third Golden Age of television.  Martin writes about the complicated lives of tv writers like David Chase, David Simon, Ed Burns, David Milch, and Alan Ball and the stories they all told through their shows.  Needless to say, a lot of drama went into making all of their dramas.

I really like reading about television.  I also enjoy watching television, just not the television this book talks about.  I haven’t seen The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, or Breaking Bad.  I don’t really plan on watching any of those shows, except maybe The Wire.  I just don’t have the emotional space to watch all those dark, upsetting dramas.  I don’t need to watch hours of those shows to know it would be too much for me.  But reading about those shows and how they were created? That I can do: reading about these shows doesn’t have the same emotional weight and I learn so much about the creative process.  Also, many of these shows have become such pop cultural touchstones that I want to have a rudimentary knowledge of their stories.  Listening to Difficult Men was an excellent way to learn more.


Difficult Men, Brett Martin, 4-stars, tv history


Difficult Men

My Salinger Year

I have never read Catcher in the Rye, nor any other of the works of Salinger. Nevertheless, My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff still caught my eye.  I can’t resist a memoir devoted to a year in someone’s life (see my reading of: A Year of Biblical Womanhood, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, My Year with Eleanor, Orange Is the New Black).  There’s something about that sharp focus on one season of someone’s life that intrigues me.

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When Joanna Rakoff was 23 in the late 90’s, she took a job as an assistant at a New York literary agency: an agency that just happened to represent famous author J. D. Salinger.  The agency resists the pull of the forthcoming 21st century, refusing to use computers or the internet and sticking to typewriters and Dictaphones.  Throughout this year, Rakoff navigates the idiosyncrasies of her coworkers at the agency, as well as a relationship with an odd boyfriend.  She also becomes responsible for answering Salinger’s fan mail, and her stories about these letters and her responses to them are fascinating.

Publishing,writing, Salinger, life in New York City as a young woman.  These are just a few of the topics I learned more about from reading My Salinger Year.  This is why I read memoir, why I read anything, to learn about what I don’t already know.


My Salinger Year, Joanna Rakoff, 5-stars, memoir


salinger

Goodnight June

Who doesn’t love Goodnight Moon? I’m sure there must be some heartless readers who don’t enjoy this classic tale by Margaret Wise Brown, but I’m not sure I want to know those people. Goodnight Moon was one of my favorite books to read to my students–the kids loved to point out their favorite items in the room.  When I saw the book Goodnight June by Sarah Jio on the shelves at the library, I knew I had to try it out.  Goodnight June is a novel that imagines a friendship between Goodnight Moon author Margaret Wise Brown and the aunt of the title character, June.

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June is an uptight business woman who has been ignoring her past and her family.  She answers the call to go home, though, to settle her aunt Ruby’s estate, which includes Ruby’s bookstore, opened in the 1940s.  June has to make the difficult decision of whether or not she can keep the store open.  While she’s going through the store, though, she discovers letters written between her aunt Ruby and author Margaret Wise Brown.  Her aunt has left her a scavenger hunt of sorts, asking June to find classic children’s books in the bookstore to find more of the correspondence between Ruby and Margaret.  Through these letters, June learns the story of the friendship between her aunt and Margaret Wise Brown, as well as more about the origins of Brown’s Goodnight Moon.

I don’t read a lot of adult fiction, because much of what I have read has been boring and predictable.  Obviously I don’t pick that well because I know there has to be interesting and exciting adult fiction.  Goodnight June is somewhere in the middle of that continuum–it wasn’t boring, but it was predictable.  It was interesting, but not terribly exciting.  Overall, though, it was a good story that made me want to read more by this author, even without the Goodnight Moon hook.


Goodnight June, Sarah Jio, 4-stars, fiction


goodnight june

The Divorce Papers

The Divorce Papers made me realize how much I love epistolary novels. Susan Rieger’s story of how lawyer Sophie Diehl manages the divorce of Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim is told through correspondence, including legal papers, emails, newspaper articles, and more.  Even though reading through paperwork might sound boring and divorce is an unpleasant topic, The Divorce Papers tells a fascinating story.

#31daysofreading

Sophie is not a divorce lawyer.  Yet somehow, a longtime client of her firm, Mia, decides that Sophie is the right lawyer for her divorce.  Sophie’s firm wants to keep their client happy and asks her to take on this daunting task.  As Sophie learns more about divorce law and of the story of her client, so do you.  She asks for assistance from her bosses, reads articles about the law of her county, and keeps in close contact with her client.  You learn more about both Sophie and Mia, as well as the intricacies of divorce law through each piece of correspondence.

Normally when I choose a book, I check Goodreads for it’s average rating and I don’t often read books with a rating of less than 3.5 stars. I either didn’t check before I read The Divorce Papers or I decided I didn’t care, because it has a 3.32 rating.  The masses are not always correct: sometimes a book just falls really well with you even when many others hated it.  That was the case for me with The Divorce Papers.  Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down.  If you’re looking for good epistolary fiction, I recommend this book.



the divorce papers

#GIRLBOSS

I read #GIRLBOSS one morning in July when I woke up accidentally at 4:45 AM.  My medication woke up my brain before my body wanted to get out of bed so I picked up #GIRLBOSS (yes, the hashtag is included in the title) off the top of the giant stack of books next to my bed.  It’s not a long or difficult read, and I had the book finished by the time my alarm went off at 7 AM to get ready for work.

#31daysofreading

Part memoir, part self-help, part business tale, #GIRLBOSS is Sophia Amoruso’s story of how she grew her business NastyGal.  She started out as a one-woman shop on eBay selling vintage clothes she found in thrift stores and over the course of a few years grew that shop into a multi-million dollar company.  I had never heard of either Amoruso or Nasty Gal, but the book had been recommended by a website I read for young professional women called Levo League.

What I liked most about this book was, as is the case for most memoirs, is Sophia’s story.  She’s honest and open about the mistakes she made in her young adulthood and as she started her business.  Her journey to becoming the CEO of a giant brand was, to say the least, unconventional.  She didn’t go to college, she didn’t attend business school.  Instead, she built her business through trial and error and wasn’t afraid of making mistakes if she could learn from them.

Interspersed through her personal story are tips for the modern young professional women, the #GIRLBOSS.  She has rules like, “Money looks better in the bank than on your feet,” and “Dream big, start small.”  None of these tips or rules are new or earth-shattering, but they are practical reminders that can help young women take charge of their personal and professional lives.


#GIRLBOSS, Sophia Amoruso, 4-stars, memoir, business, advice, some swearing


#GIRLBOSS

Dear Committee Members

Months and months ago, Linda Holmes of NPR recommended the book Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher on my favorite podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour.  Alas, at the time she recommended the book, she had read an Advanced Reader Copy and it wasn’t set to be published for months. In September, the book was finally published and since I was at the top of the holds list at the library I was able to start reading Dear Committee Members right away.

#31daysofreading

DCM is a short novel of letters from a professor of English at a small college to many, many people.  Professor Jason Fitger writes biting letters of recommendation for students pursuing jobs and degrees at a wide variety of institutions.  With a few exceptions, these are not positive recommendations.  In most of these letters, he is irritated at the requester or the intended recipient, and is not shy about his irritation.  He tells these committees exactly what he’s thinking, with no filter.  While these kinds of letters would be terrible to receive in real life, they are hilarious to read.  Professor Fitger writes what people actually think, but aren’t brave enough to say.

Mixed in with these letters of recommendation (or rather, un-recommendation) are yet more letters detailing his attempts to help one of his students publish a manuscript.  In each new missive, you discover just a little more about Professor Fitger’s life, relationships, and work.  Epistolary novels are so much fun to read: details are teased out piece by piece and you never know which letter will have a bombshell of new information.  DCM is an especially entertaining example, because it is filled with wit and humor.  If you like to laugh, you should read this book.


Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher, 5-stars, epistolary novel, hilarious, some swearing


Dear Committee Members

31 Days of Reading

I am a lifelong reader and book nerd.  Even though there have been seasons where I didn’t have the time or energy to read as much as I would have liked, books and reading have always been an important part of my life.  I also love sharing about what I’ve read, but I’ve never been very successful at actually writing down and publishing any reviews. When I came upon the idea of #31daysofwriting in October, I knew I had a topic ready-made for this challenge: #31daysofreading.  I’ve read 67 books so far this year (finished an audiobook in the car this morning on the way to work!), so I have plenty of material to review.  For this first day, though, I wanted to write about the tools I use to aid my reading habit, as well as what kinds of books I usually read.

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While I already own hundreds of books, I also really like reading new shiny books.  Alas, my book budget cannot sustain my new shiny book habit, so it’s a good thing I work at a library.  I’m always hovering around my 50 items checked out limit, and I have over 80 items on hold.  Even though I know I won’t ever read them all, I love having choices and perusing these new shiny books.

One of my biggest partners in my reading adventures is Goodreads. I keep my imaginary bookshelves filled with what I’ve read, what I’m currently reading, what I’ve put in hibernating, what I’ve rejected completely, and what I want to read (the shelf that is ridiculously optimistic).  I can also record my reading progress (page number or percent completed), which is helpful since I tend to read 15-20 books at the same time.  I know many people can’t fathom reading more than one book at a time, but I love jumping from book to book and Goodreads helps me stay on track.

Goodreads also hosts a reading challenge every year, which I have participated in since 2011.  That year, I read 20 books, the next year I read 40, and last year I set a goal of 50 and read 53.  For 2014, I wanted to really challenge myself and decided to attempt to read 100 books.  The reading challenge lets me know how well (or not well) I’m keeping to the pace I need to be reading in order to finish 100 by December 31, and right now I’m 7 books behind the pace.

When I finish a book, I give it a star rating using Goodreads’ system: 5-stars: it was amazing; 4-stars: really liked it; 3-stars: liked it; 2-stars: it was ok; 1-star: did not like it.  Most of my books are rated 5s and 4s, because if I really don’t like it, I don’t normally finish it.  If I give a book 1 star, it generally means I hate-read it, meaning I disliked it so much yet I had to finish it because I hoped it might improve (see my 1-star review of The Magicians).

My favorite genre of books is memoir because I enjoy learning about life from someone else’s personal perspective.  Sometimes I choose a memoir specifically because the writer has lived a life very different than mine and I want to explore that difference.  Other times I choose one because I relate to the author and can place myself in her shoes.  Beyond memoir, you will also find me reading young adult fiction and historical nonfiction, with the occasional adult fiction and graphic novels.  Working at the library is expanding my reading horizons, but I mainly stick to these genres when I’m choosing my reading material.

I’ve read a lot of great books this year, as well as some not-so-great books.  You can see them all on my Goodreads page.  I don’t plan on reviewing every book on my list from this year, so if there’s a book in particular I’ve read that you’d like to see, leave a comment letting me know.  I hope that with my #31daysofreading you’ll discover new books to enjoy.

Summer 2014: What I Was Into

May, June, July,  August: Summer 2014 flew by for me. I started a new job in the spring, muddled my way through my kidney problems and diagnoses, started new medications, went on vacation, came home and got a promotion, and now August is almost over and now it’s September.  It was a challenging summer, but a good one.

#kidneyproblems

Where do I begin with my #kidneyproblems (I’ve decided to stop fighting and simply embrace hashtags)?  Between insurance changes and long wait times before I could see a specialist, I didn’t visit a nephrologist (kidney specialist) until the end of May. The only way to find out for sure what was going on with my kidneys was to have a biopsy of my kidney.  Alas, with more insurance confusion, it took almost another month to schedule and then have the procedure.

 Within a week of the biopsy, though, I received a diagnosis: a kind of glomerularnephritis (kidney inflammation) called IgA nephropathy. According to my kidneys, I’ve had this inflammation for 5-10 years, without symptoms.  When I caught a virus in the airport or airplane on my way home from Mexico, it set off the underlying kidney inflammation.  All those unpleasant symptoms I had in April, May, and June (including kidney pain, overwhelming fatigue, and other unmentionables) had nothing to do with being in Mexico–I’ve had this disease for years.

After receiving this diagnosis, I started medications to try to reduce the inflammation, which I’m still taking as of this writing.  Almost immediately after starting the medication, I felt like I woke up from a three-month long fog.  I finally had energy again and I no longer felt fatigued all the time (just some of the time).  Alas, even with these benefits, my medication also has its downsides, including sometimes causing me to wake up at 4:30 AM and making me want to eat all the time.  It’s been a long summer of figuring out how to handle being on all the different new medications and coping with their side effects.  In September, though, I may be able to start making some medication changes—I’m just waiting on my next nephrologist appointment.

Vacation

There are few things I love more than vacation, and particularly a vacation at Lakeside.   For one week every year, I am able to go to my happy place.  I have a whole week to read, spend time with family, and eat delicious food, and it is glorious.  While I was more tired than usual this year (thanks kidneys),  I still found a way to finish twelve books, enjoy my family, and appreciate sunsets on the dock.

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Promotion

I started working at the library in April as a Bilingual Circulation Clerk. As will shock no one who knows me, I love working at the library.  I have direct access to nearly any book I want AND I get to help people: two of my favorite things.   In July, I went on vacation for two weeks in Ohio (and it was GLORIOUS).  Upon my return, I was offered a promotion to Library Associate–and I took it! It meant a chance for more hours as well as a significant pay increase.  Instead of working in Circulation, I now work at the Information Desk at the same branch of the library.  I work with people from so many different walks of life–I never know what kind of problem people might need help solving.  I sometimes help patrons find books or research information, but I primarily help troubleshoot computer, email, and internet problems. I also teach computer classes in Spanish twice a month.  This new job has been a great opportunity for me and I’m excited to see where it leads.

Books

As will surprise no one, my love of books has only been encouraged by my library job.  I’m still not quite where I need to be to meet my 100 books-in-2014 goal, but I made a lot of progress this summer.  You can check out my Goodreads page (if you have a Goodreads account) for the full list, but here are some of my favorites from this summer.

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber (memoir)

Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match by Amy Webb (memoir)

Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography by Rob Lowe (audiobook memoir)

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer (true crime, polygamous mormons)

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman (young adult fiction, WWII)

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier (young adult fiction, 1917 influenza epidemic)

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger (epistolary fiction, law)

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (suspense fiction, dinosaurs)

End of Summer

At the end of each month this summer, I would think about writing that month’s “what I’m into” post.  Alas, I could never muster up the energy and thinking skills to actually write something. Being sick all the time will do that to you.  Here’s hoping that this fall, things will be different.  I have some ideas about what I would like to write and publish here, most likely including reviewing some of my favorite books I’ve read this year.  We shall see what my kidneys decide.

WMMHTW 1

My favorite podcast is NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, “NPR’s entertainment and pop culture round-table podcast features spirited discussions of movies, books, television, nostalgia, and — every time — what’s making us happy this week.”  One of the best parts of the podcast is the last part of that description: what’s making us happy this week. This segment is where the four members of the round-table share some pop culture-y thing that they have enjoyed recently and think others would enjoy. This item could be a new band, a comic book, a tv show, anything entertaining.  They have a rule that they generally follow where what is making them happy should be relatively accessible, and not just, “I’m going on vacation.”  Let’s face it, though, sometimes the prospect of vacation is so exciting that they can’t help but share anyway.

So, in the tradition of PCHH’s what’s making them happy segment, I am going to attempt something like that, as an even more regular tracking of what I like, instead of the “monthly” posts on what I’m into. Sometimes collecting a whole month’s worth of entertaining items can be overwhelming, as evidenced by the fact that it’s June and I’ve written twice in 2013 about what I’m into.

What is making me happy this week? With my new bounty of time, I’ve been diving in to my piles of unread books. And then, a book I’ve been waiting months for finally was ready for me at the library: Eleanor and Park.  It’s come highly recommended on my corners of tumblr and twitter, especially by author John Green.  I’m just a few chapters in, and I already love it. It’s set in the 80’s, a love story between two high school students. I’m excited to see where this book goes.

What I’m Into: March, April, May 2013 Edition

This post started out as What I’m Into: March 2013. Well, it’s June now, so whatever. 2013 continues to be an exercise in learning to put up with “things I do not want.”  Stress, disappointment, frustration, you name it, 2013 has brought it.  March has been notorious in my life for being weird and disappointing and great all at the same time. April wasn’t any improvement. May and early June could be classified as some of the worst weeks of my adult life thus far.

Enough about bitter disappointment, that’s a story for another day.  There have been things I’ve liked these past months that have brought some happiness into some of the blergh and awful that seems to be 2013’s watchword.

TV

I fell in love with Parks and Recreation. Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler? I am her, people. I am her. Ok, not all of her, I like to think I’m a bit more self-aware and I don’t really care about parks. But the episode where she visits her manfriend in Washington DC? And she has detailed plans of everything she wants to see and do in DC? That is exactly me. I share her unbridled passion museums and history and other random things. And Ron Swanson? He is literally the best.

Books

I haven’t finished a book in quite awhile. In March, I read a few comic books, Plain Janes and Friends with Boys. They’re so short, but I really enjoy a graphic novel now every once in a while. The best book I read in March, though, was Brain on Fire. It’s the horrifying true story of a 24-year-old woman’s descent into madness because of a rare autoimmune disease, a diagnosis that took time and $1 million of tests.  As I was still 24 when I read this book, all I could think was: This could have been me. Some true stories never hit close to home because they could never possibly happen to me–but what happened to her is not that impossible. This woman’s story is powerful and fascinating: read it.

Music

I saw Muse in concert. It was absolutely magical. The concert was truly an amazing multimedia experience. I had never been to the BOK Center in Tulsa before, and I was amazed at all they could pull off  in one concert. A mountain of video screens coming down from the ceiling. Live video of Muse performing on those screens that looked so polished that it took quite awhile for me to figure out it was live. It was so good, it ruined me for listening to their music on just a plain old laptop.

Movies

I saw one movie in March. Admission, with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. And it was AWFUL.  Let’s never speak of this again.

Other

I don’t know how I neglected The Lizzie Bennet Diaries last month, but I did. Let’s be honest, the LBD was one of my favorite media experiences of late 2012 and early 2013. This retelling of Pride and Prejudice in modern-day America was spectacular.  It ended in late March, 100 episodes of hilarity, happiness, tears, and magic. Watch it. Seriously.

Here’s to the rest of June bringing better things.

Vote

I voted today.  I’ve voted before, but only by absentee ballot.  Today was the first time I’ve ever voted in a polling place by my home.

I vote because I like being involved.  I listen to NPR, read the newspaper, and make myself informed.  Even when my candidate or position isn’t elected or approved, I still take great pride in voting.

I vote because 100 years ago, I would not have been allowed.  Simply by virtue of being a woman, I would not have been allowed to vote (or considered a full citizen, really).

I vote because I’ve been in the home of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi. I stood in the driveway where he was assassinated, saw what’s left of his blood stained onto the concrete, heard the story of how his wife watched him die then fought for three decades for justice.  I learned how Medgar Evers fought so that African-Americans in the Deep South could exercise their Constitutional right to vote. He was killed because of that fight.

I vote because I’ve met Medgar Evers brother, Mr. Charles Evers. I listened to a man (who has personal photos with every recent president, knows personal stories about the Kennedys, and refers to conversations with President George W. Bush as “When I was talking to George”) talk about the importance of voting, being involved in what’s going on in America. He knows. His brother was murdered, assassinated for the right to vote.

I vote because I’ve stood just steps from where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated.  He was murdered because of his fight for the rights of others, including the right to vote.  I’ve learned the history of the movement for which he is the face at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorriane Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve seen through pictures, movies, and stories how he and others sacrificed to bring civil rights to all Americans.

I vote because when half of America doesn’t get their way tonight, no one will riot or turn to extreme violence to try to get their way back.

I vote because I have had so many opportunities to learn about America’s history.  Through reading books, traveling around the country, meeting people, and hearing stories, I have learned the importance of voting.

I vote because the sacrifices of others made it possible for me and for others to exercise our right to vote, peacefully.

I vote because I want to keep it that way.

I vote because as a young white woman in the Midwest, no one will question my right to vote. I want to use my votes, my knowledge to do everything in my power to ensure others have that same privilege.

I vote because I cannot remain silent.

I vote because that gives me power.

What to Read Next

I don’t know what I want to read anymore. This has taken me quite some time to admit. Books have always been how I identified myself.  Alas, limits on my time, school work, life in general, and much more has changed how I decide what to read next.

First, my attention span is much shorter. If I start a book and am not immediately hooked, I drop it. I don’t have time to waste on books I don’t absolutely love.  This unfortunately means I don’t give most books a chance.

Second, my tastes have changed. I know what I don’t like. I just don’t know what I do like anymore.

Third, my life is changing all the time.  I want to just re-read books I know I used to love so I can feel more settled.  This doesn’t always work, though.  I feel guilty for reading something already read.  Also, some of my formerly beloved books–I just don’t care for anymore but I don’t realize it until I’ve started and then my fond memory of the book is ruined.

This is such a silly thing to fret over. It’s just books.

But really, it isn’t just books. I just don’t know what it is.

I still don’t know what to read next.

Oh, and it’s mid-June and I haven’t even contemplated May or anticipated June. It’ll be over before I know it.  This is too fast.

A List

A list of books

One of my favorite nerdy things to do in my life is finding books to read.  When I get stressed by school or other things of life, I go to my library website and request books like a crazy person.  Which is how I have ended up with 47 items checked out of the library right now. My limit is 50, so I could get 3 more….

My library is an enabler.  Its website makes it far too easy to search for and request books.  Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read everything I check out and sometimes I know I miss out on good books because I just don’t have time to finish them before they must be returned or I am not in the mood to read that particular book.  So, I think a list of books I currently possess via a library card is in order.

I am an eclectic and eccentric reader. Hence, the books on this lists are from various genres and recommended or discovered from various places (thank you Barnes and Noble, Borders, NPR, NY Times, Half-Price Books, etc).  If I feel really adventurous, I may write some reviews of these books that I read.  That all depends on the quantity of my spare time in the coming months.  The fact that I’m about to go on what will essentially be 6 weeks of travel makes that idea of writing my own book reviews unlikely.  But who knows, it could happen.

Since these books I am about to list are only on my to-read list, I cannot vouch for their excellence, readability, quality of dialogue, appropriateness, level of heathen activity, or anything else.  I selected these books for reading possibilities based on random factors, which include judging a book by its attractive cover, liking the blurb on the back of the book, and being intrigued by the title.  I make no promises.

A List
You can’t get there from here: a year on the fringes of a shrinking world / Gayle Forman
When March went mad: the game that transformed basketball / Seth Davis
The oak leaves / Maureen Lang
On Sparrow Hill / Maureen Lang
Waiting for normal / Leslie Connor
Musicophilia : tales of music and the brain / Oliver Sacks
The secret of lost things: a novel / Sheridan Hay
Love and other impossible pursuits / Ayelet Waldman
The moon in the mango tree: a novel / Pamela Binnings Ewen
The boy who dared / Susan Campbell Bartoletti
The piano teacher / Janice Y.K. Lee
The shape of mercy / Susan Meissner
Water Street / Patricia Reilly Giff
The girl who threw butterflies / Mick Cochrane
The Penderwicks / Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street / Jeanne Birdsall
Kiki Strike: inside the shadow city / Kirsten Miller
Thirteen reasons why / Jay Asher
The other side of the island / Allegra Goodman
Siberia / Ann Halam
Tamar / Mal Peet
Marie, dancing / Carolyn Meyer
The remarkable & very true story of Lucy & Snowcap / H.M. Bouwman
Airman / Eoin Colfer
The last treasure / Janet S. Anderson
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society / Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
A child’s journey out of autism: one family’s story of living in hope and finding a cure / Leeann Whiffen
A universal history of the destruction of books: from ancient Sumer to modern Iraq / Fernando Báez
Gideon the cutpurse: being the first part of the Gideon trilogy / Linda Buckley-Archer
Anything but typical / Nora Raleigh Baskin
Olive Kitteridge / Elizabeth Strout
Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson
In the company of crazies / Nora Raleigh Baskin
Three cups of tea: one man’s mission to promote peace– one school at a time / Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
If I stay / Gayle Forman
The returning / Ann Tatlock
Words unspoken / Elizabeth Musser

So what should I read first?

American Born Chinese

I opened ABC to read without realizing what kind of book it is.  It’s a graphic novel.  I didn’t even start to read because I thought, “Ick, graphic novels are not my thing and I really don’t enjoy them.”  When I mentioned that I had tried to read it in my Young Adult Literature (YAL) class and said that I really didn’t want to read it, I was challenged that that’s precisely why I should read the book.  It’s different and not something I would ordinarily read.  So I tried again.

It was….interesting.  Some parts I liked and some parts slightly disturbed me.  I was never quite sure what audience the author was targeting…sometimes 12-13 year olds, sometimes 16 or 17.  Some of the content was just not appropriate for the younger age.  The book tapped into spiritual themes, but just that: spiritual.  Scripture was essentially spoken by God, but in the context of Buddhism and “kung fu” spirituality.  Some Buddhist deities were depicted, including Yama, the deity of the underworld.  These were all points from the book I disliked that I pondered after I read.  These aren’t highly processed thoughts at all, just some commentary.

I liked the way the author wove together three separate stories of Chinese legend, a Chinese boy, and an Causasian boy.  A main point of the book is how many Chinese (and Asian in general) children  are often teased and ridiculed by others (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not).  Teachers and students alike make rude and unpleasant stereotypes about the Chinese boy, Jin, pronouncing his name wrong and making ridiculous assumptions about his life.  The book also touches on how irritated Jin becomes with his Chinese heritage and how ashamed Danny (the Caucasian boy) is of his Chinese relatives.  The author shows how difficult it can be to struggle with these issues.

Overall, I think I liked it.  And I think I didn’t.  Essentially, I feel in-between about American Born Chinese. I still dislike graphic novels, but I also like the stories about Chinese culture.  I shall have to think on it more.