He’s not the richest or the most famous. His characters don’t solve mysteries, have magical powers or live in the future…but he shows us the way we live now.
Lev Grossman wrote those words for the cover of the August 23, 2010 cover of Time magazine, calling Jonathan Franzen “the great American novelist.” In the midst of the great recession when most people were thinking about the economy, unemployment, and the sinking real estate market, America needed a hero and with the recent publication of Franzen’s fourth novel, Freedom, Time magazine found their guy but fell short of naming him “Man of the Year” for writing what most critics considered great literature. Read more
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
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
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
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
The country that separates fathers and sons has disoriented many travelers.
Many Americans associate Libya with the September 11, 2012 uprising in Benghazi where Islamic militants attacked the American consulate killing the US Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens and three others. To better understand Libya and the historical events that define its tumultuous past, it is helpful to know the following: Read more
In 2016, Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond published Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Evicted) – the story of eight families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction in 2017, the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, the 2017 Pen/John Kenneth Galbraith Award, the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal, and more, Evicted is the emotional and heartbreaking story of what happens when people are evicted from their homes. As the author points out, it’s not just the roof over their heads that’s lost, but also a neighborhood, friends, schools, and a sense of safety and personal dignity. Read more
Blake Bailey is best known for his biographies of very talented but troubled writers (Yates, Cheever, and Jackson) so when The Splendid Things We Planned – a personal family memoir – was published in 2014, readers took note because it’s one thing to write about other people’s lives but quite another to open the flood gates on your own family. Read more
In 1838, 35-year old Ralph Waldo Emerson sat down and wrote in his journal:
I am cheered with the moist, warm, glittering, budding and melodious hour that takes down the narrow walls of my soul and extends its pulsation and life to the very horizon. That is morning; to cease for a bright hour to be a prisoner of this sickly body, and to become as large as the World.
Nearly 200 years later, Emerson’s great-great-great granddaughter, Nina Riggs found profound meaning in that entry and named the book she finished a month before her death at age 39, in February, 2017, “The Bright Hour.” When the reader fully absorbs that journal entry, it’s as if the generations between Emerson and Riggs disappear and that these two people born 174 years apart shared a connection, a knowledge of how hard it is to live when the body is failing, and the beauty of experiencing something so simple – daybreak – to alleviate the suffering. Although Emerson recovered and went on to live another 44 years, dying at the age of 78, Riggs was not so lucky. Read more