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Posts from the ‘Books and Essays’ Category

28
Jul

The Girl Who Smiled Beads

I am here. I need you to see me. I need you to see that I am here. You, world, cannot make me crumble. I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.

Clemantine Wamariya was born in 1988 in Rwanda and led an idyllic childhood until 1994, when civil war broke out between the Tutsi and Hutu (the two main groups of people residing in the country). Clemantine, six years old at the time, and her 15-year old sister, Claire were sent to live with their grandmother in the southern region of the country but when the war spread, the two young girls began a 6 year journey migrating through seven South African countries before being granted refugee status in the United States in 2000. Read more »

12
Jul

The Wife

Written by Meg Wolitzer, The Wife begins on an airplane, and specifically in seats 3A and 3B where Joe and Joan Castleman are sitting. The couple is on their way to Finland to attend the annual Helsinki Awards dinner where a prestigious literary award will be given to Joe, a distinguished well-respected American writer of fiction who previously won a Pulitzer for one of his books.

Narrated by Joan Castleman, the long-suffering wife who displays impatience for a husband who acts more like a baby than a man, while basking in the attention that goes along with being the wife of a man put on a pedestal, The Wife is the story of a marriage from the point of view of the wife.  By the second page of the novel, the reader learns that Joan has finally decided to leave Joe after more than 40 years of marriage, and all the reader can think about is why. Read more »

28
Jun

You Think It, I’ll Say It

You realize, don’t you, that you weren’t saying what I thought? You were saying what you thought.

You Think It, I’ll Say It is a collection of ten short stories written by Elizabeth Curtis Sittenfeld (who goes by Curtis Sittenfeld). Published in 2018, You Think It, I’ll Say It is hard to put down because the stories draw the reader in to the turmoil between what appears to be true and what is actually true.  Personal perspective, as determined by history and experience, is a key part of each story which only reinforces what we all know but sometimes forget:  most of us start out optimistic and naive; life experiences either strengthen us or bring bitterness and disillusionment which means that truth is often subjective. Read more »

20
Jun

The Destiny Thief

The Destiny Thief is a collection of essays (9) on writing, writers, and life by Richard Russo. Readers may recognize Russo, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for Empire Falls and also wrote Nobody’s Fool and the follow-up Everybody’s Fool, Mohawk, The Risk Pool, Straight Man, The Whore’s Child, and That Old Cape Magic, but for those who have not read his works, the best way to describe Russo’s books is to say they are authentic, real, and so well written. So how did he do it? By living the life he was meant to live. Read more »

2
Jun

You Play the Girl

Strategic girls manage perception; idealistic girls go up against the narrative, because it’s at the root of the problem, and they get crushed every time.  ~Carina Chocano

When I was a young girl (maybe 12 or 13), I watched my mother get up early one Sunday morning and drive down to Walter’s Bakery (the local bakery known for their doughnuts, brownies, and New York-style streusel coffee cake) to buy a bag of glazed, powdered, and jelly doughnuts. She returned home, bag in hand and put the doughnuts on a plate and promptly delivered them upstairs to my five brothers who were in bed.

The problem with this extremely kind gesture is that it was Mother’s Day – that one day a year when fathers and kids are supposed to wait on mom, instead of the other way around. Even back then as a child I thought it was insane for a mother to bring her five sons fresh doughnuts in bed, especially on Mother’s Day. Where’s the justice? There wasn’t any…and that was the problem with growing up female in most homes in the 50’s, 60’s. and 70’s. Read more »

5
May

The House on Mango Street

People who live on hills sleep so close to the stars they forget those of us who live too much on earth.

In 1984, Sandra Cisneros – a woman who “dreamed about having a silent home, just to herself, the way other women dreamed of their weddings” – was a 30-year-old Mexican American writer (having earned a BA in English from Loyola University and a Masters of Fine Arts from Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa) published her first book, The House on Mango Street:  the story of a young Hispanic girl named Esperanza Cordero growing up on the west side of Chicago. Read more »

2
Jan

The How Not To Die Cookbook

When the groundbreaking book, How Not To Die was published in December, 2015 by Dr. Michael Greger, MD, who had no personal financial stake in book sales because all of the proceeds are donated to charity (www.nutritionfacts.org), the public took notice putting the book on the New York Times Bestseller List instantly and keeping it there for more than a year. Read more »

19
Dec

The Perfect Gift: This Is Water

David Foster Wallace – the author of Infinite Jest, The Pale King, and Consider the Lobster- was not known as a dispenser of advice but in 2005 when he gave the commencement address (a speech that is most often associated with giving recent grads one last dose of advice) at Kenyon College entitled This is Water, he nailed it.

Standing in front of an audience of 22-year olds and their proud families, Wallace didn’t tell the graduates to follow their passion or dreams; instead he told the audience how important it is to live a compassionate life where we consider the people around us instead of ourselves. The words make the pursuit of happiness seem so easy (just be considerate!) but when you really think about the daily processes that define our lives, it’s not so simple because we’re not hard-wired to think of anyone but ourselves most of the time. Read more »

17
Nov

Abide with Me

We can wonder if, for all our separate histories, we are not more alike than different after all.     ~Elizabeth Strout

In 1959, life in small town America revolved around family, school, work, and church which was pretty much the same decades before and decades since. Houses may have updated appliances, driveways new cars, and schools fitted with updated technology but people tend to stay the same. They root for a winner but can’t help finding fault, gossiping, and crucifying others for perceived slights, petty jealousies, or simply because they have nothing else to do. And, as soon as a person is knocked down to size, they come together to lift him or her up, rejoicing in their newfound redemption. Such is the story of the townspeople in a small northeastern town in Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout. Read more »

9
Nov

Each Kindness

Each Kindness is a beautiful picture book with a powerful message about how we treat people and the regrets we may have.  Written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Each Kindness is told from the perspective of a young girl named Chloe who tells the story of what happened when a new girl named Maya joined her class in primary school (the book does not specify the grade but it appears to be about second or third grade).

Chloe recounts with brutal honesty how she shunned the new girl, made fun of her, and refused all attempts at friendship throughout the school year. When Ms. Albert, their teacher gives a lesson on kindness, Chloe wonders how much better the year could have been if she had shown Maya a little kindness and opened her heart to friendship. Read more »