Tag Archives: book review

Girlhood is a glass vase.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

It’s probably sad how attached I am to this book.  I wanted to simultaneously fall down a rabbit hole and climb into a dark hole while reading it.  Lena Dunham in Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells What She’s “Learned” is so spot on with her pseudo-memoir that I was practically highlighting the entire book.  I thought that she found the voice between psycho-tire-stabber and romantically-involved-with-herself girlhood.  I used to think Taylor Swift was my ultimate girl crush, but Lena Dunham has now taken the number one spot.  If I could have a moment with Dunham like she had with Nellie sans-vomit, I would drink the red wine, and curl up on a vintage french rug and tell her all my secrets with our bodies, knees together, and spines curved, into a heart shape (totally platonic).

Joana Avillez’ Art for Lena Dunham’s book @ SVA.Edu

At some point during my reading, I started coloring all the tiny pictures.  I think this was in an effort for the book not to end, but that makes me even more of a guppy so pretend I didn’t admit this.   Like Dunham’s memoir, it’s clear that I can’t go linear through it. I will do my best though.

Dunham starts with relationships.  I needed to read this so I could not choose the devil on my shoulder that said I could just artificially inseminate myself at 37 and choose the man on paper who would father that child.  (It’s still a serious thought though.  I talk about it over Mexican food to my best friends).  I’ve never written “Amen” in the sidelines of a book, but in this relationships section, I did too many times.  My personal favorite “Here’s who it’s not okay to share a bed with: Anyone who makes you feel like you’re invading their space.  Anyone who tells you that they ‘just can’t be alone right now.’ Anyone who doesn’t make you feel like sharing a bed is the coziest and most sensual activity they could possibly be undertaking (unless of course, it is one of the aforementioned relatives; in that case, they should act lovingly but also reserved/slightly annoyed) Now, look over at the person beside you. Do they meet these criteria? If not, remove them or remove yourself. You’re better off alone.”

Still of Lena Dunham’s Vimeo Video with illustrations by Joana Avillez

Art by Joana Avillez for Lena Dunham’s book.

I think that quote highlights the very essence of this book.  Everything she was saying I had either experienced, or knew was inherently bad/good for me, but sometimes, I need to be told literally in print to stop dating jerks because “When someone shows you how little you mean to them, and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself.”

This rang so true for my high school first boyfriend (who was a total douchebag who I thought was so hot because he would start fights with boys that just looked at me over their shoulder) and rang true for a few boyfriends after that who treated me like I was good enough as their back-up dancer.  In this relationship section, I learned how okay I really am.  I highlighted many parts on self-respect, and continuing on your personal journey regardless of the man who either thinks he is on rungs higher than you, or doesn’t appreciate your oddness.

The amazing inside of Lena Dunham’s book by Joana Avillez.

The body section was a little weird, but still important to the general idea of being a woman and being told you’re not good enough in any shape unless you’re a Victoria Secret model (and even they’re told they’re too skinny).  We apply creams, sprays, dyes, lenses, glosses, surgeries to ourselves to look like someone we don’t even know, or someone’s ideal that we haven’t even really thought out for its purpose (Hello, obese women were the most popular in England for hundred of years before any Barbie ever came out — not that I recommend obesity for it’s general health problems, but still, the point).  This is the section people really have problems with on Goodreads. One girl actually counted the calories Dunham put for each item to find the errors.  I wasn’t looking for problems with Dunham while I was reading, I was just enjoying the kindred spirit affect of this book.

Maybe this makes me narcissistic.

Selfies-Fo-Days

Selfies-Fo-Days

I am, probably.  I enjoy a selfie-a-day.  I pout my lips in the mirror after I pop my lips together just following glossing them.  My Mom told me I was pretty (probably more than the average girl, but I wouldn’t know if this is true or not) and honestly, I believe it. And I think that’s important.  I feel pretty and I feel happy and I wear purple lipstick when I want and I still think I’m chic. So, BAM.

This was the other negative about Dunham’s book.  People thought like Joan Didion (pressing her riches into her memoir), Dunham is only famous due to her acclaimed parents and her “rich-girl” upbringing.  I beg to differ.  The girl who wrote this book is sensual, worldly, expecting, honest, experienced, and still learning.  I don’t care what the “haters” say at this point, this is someone’s life and it’s a story that’s worth telling like every life story is worth telling.  She even outlines her troubles in the industry and how she was treated not as a threat to her male counterparts, but as a sponge for ideas to steal.  She went to college and earned a degree in creative writing (even if she was the girl that everyone hates in workshop who tears their pieces apart and then has no merit in their own writing).  Girl got goods, she’s doing big things and I think at some point people need to learn to not be jealous of the way someone got to their light, but that they got there and they’re spreading it.

Image @ Blissfullvida@wordpress.com

Let the girl shine.

Dunham even writes about this jealousy, “And I decided then that I will never be jealous.  I will never be vengeful.  I won’t be threatened by the old, or by the new.  I’ll open wide like a daisy every morning.  I will make my work.”  If nothing else, this is advice to live by.  If everyone just tried to “do them” and better themselves and encourage others to continue to raise the tide, we would all be creating waves together.

Lena Dunham at the Globes 2010 (I think).

I think the biggest problem I have with people who hate this book is that they obviously were oblivious to the feelings of those around them in childhood and college.  Dunham opens doors to our most secret selves that we hide behind masked personalities.  She talks about her college sexual encounters and drug use (that ring true for so many college woman), and discusses her constant need for a therapist due to her anxiety about life’s bigger problems.  So many of the truly wonderful women, one of my very best friends especially, have trouble with anxiety and paranoia.  This is a true account of a society that either shuts its doors to people like this or just chooses not to recognize their struggle.  Regardless of how much money your parents make, your inner self can still struggle with so many things that are beyond financial.

Overall, this book gave me so many feelings.  I dried out a pen underlining and I couldn’t stop reading.  I wanted to keep knowing Dunham.  She had something to teach me even when she sounded just like me, because sometimes you need to hold up a mirror to yourself in order to understand.  Don’t believe the haters.  I know the girl can’t pick a Globes dress … ever, but she can write a damn memoir, and every girl should read it.

*I’ve never watched Girls so this review is totally based on Dunham’s memoir and short interviews at award’s shows (and the fact she’s best friends with Taylor Swift).


A book to turn on your weird feels.

SomeEcards are not so funny, but so true.

I, too, believe the theory that all people are ruined by their first love, even if they do end up marrying and toting the title of “high school sweetheart” or “kissed on the playground at six.”  While I watched, Cody from Sister Wives talk to his daughter about how kissing leads to attachments that should be kept separate for a future husband, I was scoffing, no less. And then I thought about it and kissing is terrible for the human psyche, at least if you’re playing those “adult” games.

I used to be really good at these when I was young and wild.  I think it came from being a good liar as a child, I could work a chess board of dating emotions with the best of them.  I was a black widow of dating, per Iggy.  It could also be the obscene amount of Brandy and Monica I listened to, but really, we can’t blame them, they were playing a game of their own.

SomeEcards are always SO on point.

I try not to play those games anymore because I got burned from my own sick game which taught me a valuable lesson about honesty.  And now, I’m probably too honest, to the point of the negative connotation of it, “blunt.”

It’s these games that cause us, as American dating millennials, so much trouble.  We picture our future marriages to a guy who just smiled at us, we window shop in online dating and swipe left every time he has an out of place freckle, and we madly text almost-love messages and then get bored four weeks later.  It’s actually a disgusting way to date, I like to call it the “date and discard.”  I find this is the case with a lot of my single friends (now that I’m in that category and I’m restudying my kind).  One of my best friends would rather call the dating scene for late twenties-early thirties, “dick pic and discard.”  (Thanks, Tinder).

Thanks, Tinder. You do so much for the community.

And if we get an emotional response (wait, we still have those nerves) we quickly find a reason to self-sabotage and chalk the whole thing up to another Taylor Swift downfall.  Heaven forbid, we set ourselves up for that “marriage” thing that all our other friends who are no longer cool on a Saturday night have.  Every single girl knows, she jumps up and down at the engagement of a friend and then goes home to paint her nails alone and thinks “man down.”

Another Bad Man by Miranda July

This isn’t the Sex & the City.  We’ve cloned thousands of Samantha’s and their walking around attached to cell phones and pretending to read books and all dressing like their from Portland.  This is actually a long way to set-up the review for Another Bad Man by Miranda July out from Scribner on January 13th.  A fitting date for this strange pursuit at a novel.

I should preface this with, I’m obsessed with Miranda July.  She’s like the coolest version of Zoey Deschanel, except she’s actually artsy, and she pulls off an Annie wig hairstyle, and she has the eyes of an anime character.  She’s got that “dark and mysterious” thing going on that my cousin claims is the only thing a girl needs to hook him.  (Another disgusting thing about millennials is that we don’t actually want to know each other, we just want our significant other to look good on paper…and on the face).  Jamie Veron had all this right in his article for Thought Catalog.

I say all this, longwindedly, to say that I think this idea of adult dating as sick game play is at the heart of Miranda July’s newest novel.    A forty year old woman is searching for her own life through ideas she believes from her past lives.  For example, she must date Philip because they were a cave family together, and she looks in the faces of babies to see if they are really her soul-children.  I know this all sounds strange right now, but it all ended up being for good by the end.  I’ll admit, a little bit into it, when she started going to the therapist for this imaginary globus stuck in her neck, I was a little worried that July was way off base.

Miranda July // Creative Commons

A quick summary: Cheryl (the forty year old) takes on a fresh-out-of-teenagehood house guest and they begin an adult game of their own which alters Cheryl’s life forever, and quakes the lives around her own (though she did have few friends).

It’s really a story of love and strength at any age, but it has some strange romances, or blips of romance because that’s the only way us millennials can date.  I think Cheryl is a woman stuck in between this idea of a lifetime marriage, and a blip of dating/cougarhood.  And it takes the entirety of the novel for her to figure out where her soul fits in this mess called life.

“None of them had been pursued.  I had not flown to Japan by myself to see what it was like there.  I had not gone to nightclubs and said Tell me everything about yourself to strangers.  I had not even gone to the movies by myself.  I had been quiet when there was no reason to be quiet and consistent when consistency didn’t matter.  For the last twenty years I had lived as if I was taking care of a newborn baby” – Cheryl in The First Bad Man by Miranda July.

A Miranda July Art Project from a few years ago.

I think the quote above establishes my favorite part of this novel because it sets everything that we believe on ice and forces us to realize that life is going to happen, whether we join in, whether we’re playing some game, or whether we actually win.  Dating will happen, or it won’t. Saturday nights alone will happen, or they won’t.  Therapists will give good advice and then immediately follow it with terrible advice that we always follow, friends do this too.  I once told my best friend to stand outside of a grocery store in her pajamas to beg for a boy to talk to her.  Not sure what dating cycle I was in at that point in my life, but it obviously was not a good one.

The characters in the novel all work at a self-defense agency making videos that women can use to get exercise, but also use as tools to fight off attackers.  They come together when Phil (one of the board members) presents a secret to Cheryl and Cheryl takes on her not-so-teenage houseguest, Clee.  Clee causes Cheryl to unwind and live a life that isn’t so plain jane, but she also rocks her world with unanswerable questions and even more unanswerable life situations.  These are the three main characters, I would argue, but others pop in with advice, rich characterization, and just overall weirdness.  I’m still a little unsure about the weirdness in this novel.  It took about halfway for me to invest enough in it to ignore all that.

Miranda July family videos // Creative Commons

This is why I’m going to not recommend this to the masses.  I think it’s more for a pocket of people that will understand that we all make really strange decisions, (and sometimes those are closet sexual decisions) in order to just get by.  If you can’t face that main Google fact, then I’m not sure this is really a book you should pick up.  It’s like watching really bad dancing (like doing the 1990s worm with a stomach bulge), and hoping it will get better, but then it doesn’t get better in the way that you think it will, instead it gets better in this odd new way.

I feel like I’m not making sense.  This is a really hard book to review in any sort of adequate way because it’s so….its own. It’s original and quirky and a little brilliant.  Just don’t blame me, if you feel weird while reading during parts of it.  I guess this is basically a dare. I dare you to read this one and try not to be completely weirded out. Let’s get strange!

 


Newsday Tuesday

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  • anne sexton legs: For the record, she was cheeky in daisy dukes sometimes.
  • prometheus vagina: I do not, and hope to ever understand this reference.  It’s actually terrifying, both in a sci-fi way and a greek myth way.
  • short 24 line rhyming poem: I wonder how many there are.
  • emily croy barker book 2: HOLLA! I’ve been waiting too.

Book News:


And What Exactly is the Melody of Love?

Lullabies by Lang Leav

This book was like a road trip with a friend that you should only really see for a lunch occasion, with another friend as a buffer. It was a mess of hurt to slosh through. Word to the wise, don’t read a poetry collection of love and heartache when you still have to listen to Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off” on repeat for the occasional evening.

I haven’t read any other of Lang Leav’s books, but I saw Lullabies all over #bookstagram, and who doesn’t love a lullaby?  I like listening to the rain when I sleep because there’s something about the whisper of a raindrop skimming a closed window.  This book, though, is a rocket taking off in your chest.  It makes you weep on pg. 3 and then you can’t get yourself together until pg. 37.  The very first poem, “Her Words” is written to every girl out there that ever wanted a boy to love the nerdy way she wrote his name in cursive in her notebook, circled in a collection of different sized hearts.

“Love a girl who writes
and live her many lives;
you have yet to find her,
beneath her words of guise.”

This is a poetry collection that gives meaning to Salinger’s famous quote, “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”  Lang Leav has constructed a collection for all the broken-hearted women, the story-tellers, and the girls who lunch gossips, the book clubs, and the girls who wish someone would ask them out in the produce section, the ones that the girl’s remember, and every single one they want to forget even though they can look at just something like windshield wipers and want to cry.  It’s a book, at the core, about love and the many ways we hold it, carry it or worship it.  Leav is clear in her mantra of love, but shows the ways too, that it can decay and sour.  I would argue that this book is best read just after falling in love, or just after leaving, which is all of us, all the time.

“Signposts” by Lang Leav

Post-breakup, I especially loved the poem “Signposts.” There was also the following line from “Thoughts of You:”

“There were times when I was with him and it was too much.  Does that make sense? When someone stirs a world of emotion in you and it’s so intense you can barely stand to be with him.”

A portrait of Woolf by Roger Fry c. 1917 (Creative Commons Wikipedia)

Other than feeling really loved throughout this text, I didn’t really pay attention to the structure of the book. I don’t really understand the sectioning and I think that’s okay.  I think the sections are more a symbol of Leav’s love life, and less something for the reader to hold onto as they read. I was very interested in her words and how she constructs the images, but less so with her rhythms and word choice.  She has constant images of the sea which I found cliche, even when she used them in a new way (love and the sea has been done before, and no one can compete with it more than Hemingway’s Old Man, Captain Ahab, and poor Virginia Woolf with her rock-filled petticoat pockets).  Her man should have just bought her a nice, straight robe.

A group of women window shopping in Toronto, Canada in 1937. via Creative Commons Wikipedia

Leav’s rhythm was often unexpected, but in an off sort of way.  You can’t set up the reader’s expectations with a set rhythm and then the last line throws that rhythm completely off.  Writers can do that when the line is meant to jar the reader with word choice, meaning, or conclusions, but just to have an off-set rhythm isn’t fair to the reader’s flow.  This is almost my only negative critique of Leav and I think that’s more because her content speaks to every high school heart that grows into a woman of boundaries, or window-shopping, of loose loving and rolled-up sleeves, or one of loneliness.  It’s hard to get a grasp on what kind of love you can give in all its forms and stages, but I think Leav’s volume, Lullabies, captures that unknowing.

http://www.wikihow.com670 × 503Search by image Be a Tomboy and Girly Girl Step 1.jpg via Creative Commons Wiki

The best thing I can say is that this book is that spirit of love.  There’s a poem for every single one of my ex-boyfriends, my dating trajectory and series of unfortunate events.  Down to the use of “thigh” in a poem, Leav read me like a stanza.   I immediately remembered one of my favorite ex-boyfriends (we had the best stories) who was stabbed and ended up with a lightning bolt scar on his thigh.  I constantly tell my students that it’s the specifics that make a poem, a reader doesn’t clutch at the general, but the small moment specifics that are so true to the speaker that they become true for the reader. Leav does this, and in many ways captures the loving feelings of a generation of girls that in all their willpower refuse to collapse in a world where we still have conversations about men being dominant.  Clearly, if we continue to write this poetry of the heart, our tomboyish flutters will win us a good conquer.

 

 


“I always remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman @ Smithsonian Press

Everyone has favorite things.

Julie Andrews sang a whole song about hers as she floated around mountain landscapes and swung around light poles.

I think it’s important to have favorite things, and even more, it’s important to have unusual things that don’t make sense to anyone but you because you’ve added some sort of sentimentality to the object itself.  I keep my grandmother’s strainer under the sink, not because it still works, but because sometimes I bring it out just to filter my kitchen light.  It’s got a star design of holes and it reminds me of a Christmas luminary.  Every so often, I need that speckled sunshine on my kitchen floors.

Used Chairs. Maira Kalman @ The Smithsonian

Maira Kalman wrote another fabulous illustrated memoir about some of her favorite things. Things she found in museums, in the muse of her childhood, on the side of old neighborhood streets, in fancy living rooms, books, embroideries.  In every Maria Kalman book I’ve ever read (even illustrations in current YA novels), she gives me some philosophy about life that opens the doors of my soul so I can hear the singing.  This one is no different.  My Favorite Things is built like a small gift, fabric binding, smooth hardcover, and vintage decorated inside cover and endpaper.

Teacup @ Smithsonian Press by Maira Kalman

I just think she’s so unusually creative.  She has an eye for quirky elegance like listing both Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh pages in her favorite things, as well as a collection of obtuse hats.  From a man lying in the park with a pug to Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, Kalman is looking at the world through the holes of a flower petal and the telescope of history.   This book originally began as a way to showcase the new Cooper Hewitt collection for the Smithsonian Design Museum.  However, it becomes this interweaving of life story, and how life story impacts the baggage we bring with us into a museum.  I might carry a large purse, but I find art compelling when it tells me something about myself, or my world.  It’s hard for me to connect to art when it doesn’t seem to deal inherently with me.  I’m sure that’s totally egocentric, but I think I match a typical American.  Art inspires because it smoothes and then oils the gears within us.

Embroideries by Maira Kalman after her mother’s death @ The Smithsonian

I think this is something Kalman has conquered with her favorite things, and her other books.  I am always inspired, I found myself turning the page just to see if we could share a story.  This is the best part of the book, it’s both memoir and trinket collection.  She tells the story of embroidery she stitched after her mother’s death, my favorite being, “my rigid heart is tenderly unmanned.” In another moment, she photographs a spoon with engraved initials, it says, “Before there were forks, there were spoons.  The spoon can be used by a baby, by a person eating soup.  Watching a person eat soup can break your heart.”

Hats by Maira Kalman @ Smithsonian Press

She even jokes about fringes being added to Lincoln’s pall that covered his coffin.  It’s both a story about the life of a woman, and the story about history as told through the eyes of the viewer, even the late-comer who views history much after it’s happened.  She is the eyes of the museum-goer, the photographer, the backpack traveler, the person who wants to reach out and touch the gold pot on the mantle in the Biltmore House, but resists just in case it trembles.  I adore Maira Kalman and I even almost used this book as a diary.  I wanted to write on the pages that she colored.  I’ve held back to keep it pristine, but I hope someone gets that close to this book.  It’s never a blush to get intimate with a good read.


Newsday Tuesday

It’s back….in BLACK (ink).

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  • autograph for friends in english: Do I smell a penpal?
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  • thees girls make you drool.com: I feel like an eight year old googled this who isn’t ready for this stage in his own maturity.

Book News:


Story Anthologies That Don’t Suck | O. Henry Prize Stories 2014

I have to confess that I don’t subscribe to any literary magazines.

I’m a hypocritical book mongrel.

I rally for the short story form, even flash fiction if it’s done right, but then I don’t actually support the magazines that provide and establish authors that try to keep that form alive.  My only way of giving back is to read as many anthologies as I possibly can, particularly contemporary fiction anthologies.  I also try not to stick to the ones that Barnes and Noble carries because they never actually choose any weird ones.

Usually, when you read an anthology it’s because you either A. like the genre, B. you are starting your own small marathon of writing flash fiction to the early morning, or C. you want to know what the “best of” contains for that particular year, or in this case, century.  (Yes, be alarmed, someone actually believed they could put together a fair and righteous anthology of fiction for the CENTURY).  I would turn that book over in bookstores, hoping no one would buy it.

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014

Anyway, also per usual when reading an anthology, not all of the stories are good.  There are few that really spark and then only because one particular line changed how you viewed the world.  Then you read everything by that author hoping to get that sick feeling again (like a woman in a bad relationship) and it’s all for naught. Those feelings come quickly, and spaz out before we can even realize what’s happened.

Westinghouse Time Capsule @ Wikipedia Commons

This is NOT the case for The O’Henry Prize Stories of 2014.  There were only two stories that I didn’t feel were up to par and the rest were brilliant.  I found myself unable to physically write down (due to hand cramping) all of the quotes that I highlighted.  And the stories are new and fresh.  They don’t center around one genre, or one betrayal from the world. They are like a little capsule that we can fling into space and hope that some extraterrestrial with a sense of compassion finds to explain this world of love gusts and expectations that don’t meet fantasies.

Or we can bury it, for the future. I’d be willing for this book to be my message to the next world along with a long composition of why they should try to recreate the dinosaur, read Emily Dickinson, and take up Twitter.

  • The collection begins with mounting tension when two boys play with a gun.  One without a mother, and one who holds secrets tighter than he can hold a fist.  I’m not sure now which is which because they both blend together as children, and only when they become adults do they realize their differences (as most of us do with our childhood friends).  My favorite thing about it is that it repeats itself multiple times, through multiple ages of childhood and adulthood.  There is a “cathedral of silence” during every year of this man-boy’s life.  He faces this silence like an open wound and it leaves him questioning who he was, and who he is now.

“Later when he tells the story to people they won’t understand.  Why didn’t he run away? His friend had  a loaded gun.  He will be repeatedly amazed at how poorly everyone remembers their childhoods, how they project their adult selves back into those bleached-out photographs, those sandals, those tiny chairs.  As if choosing, as if deciding, as if saying no were skills like tying your shoelaces or riding a bike.  Things happen to you.  If you were lucky, you got an education and weren’t abused by the man who ran the fife-a-side.  If you were very lucky you finally ended up in a place where you could say, I’m going to study accountancy … I’d like to live in a countryside … I want o spend the rest of my life with you” (“The Gun,” Mark Haddon, Granta)

  • The next story, “Talk” by Stephon Dixon (The American Reader) plays with the idea of point-of-view in a story, the inner voice that we all communicate with after we stop trying to talk to our cats for most of a lonely day. It also plays with growing old when that inner voice might be the only person that we talk to in a day’s time.  Even when you think of talking to someone, that inner voice can hold you back, be it the voice a friend or a foe.
  • Art by Sejnow @ Deviant Art (Creative Commons)

    “Valentine” by Tessa Hadley (The New Yorker) just made me never want to have a daughter.  I’m not too far away to remember what I put up with from boys in high school, but I am too far away to meet that girl and shake hands like an acquaintance.  The girl in this story doesn’t “do bad all by herself,” but “does bad” for the boy with all the wrong angles.  He’s a writer, but he’s a wanderer.  He’s a bit grunge, but he’s haughty in philosophy.  It really just tells the story of the girl before the boy, during the boy, and then plays with the idea that you can go back to the girl who was the “before” version of yourself. (Hint: You can’t).

“There was a rare blend in him of earnestness and recklessness.  And he seemed to know instinctively what to read, where to go, what music to listen to.  He was easily bored, and indifferent to anything he didn’t like” (Tessa Hadley).

  • “Petur” by Olivia Clare (Ecotone) broke my heart more than a little.  It’s a mother and son story, the son is an adult on a vacation with his mother when a volcano goes off in Poland and they are forced to live in ash.  The ash becomes symbolic for their relationship and his mother’s scattered mind as she walks through the (not wreckage) but fall, and he watches her own odd unfurling.

Sparks Royalty Free Sparks Images (Creative Commons)

“Nights after her afternoon walks, she’d sit with a field guide.  I have a bird heart, she’d say, your mother, the bird.  Precise knowledge of a fjall’s origins, or of the call each bird made, was the closest she felt she had, she said, to wisdom, because lang, because details, were important.  They were solid and finite and felt infinite” (Olivia Clare).

  • Abuse. Roadtrips. Racism. Lingering unresolved, but unpracticed feelings. Old towns. Father’s who still protected their daughters from men who drank too much and leaned too crooked over stoves thinking. Trees with names. Tradition.

“You remember your mother saying you had to learn to use the Lexicon because words were both tools and weapons and the difference between the right one and the almost-right one was like lightning and a lightning bug, and when you said the lectern was higher than you could reach she showed you the step stool hidden underneath” (“You Remember the Pin Mill,” David Bradley, Narrative).

  • “Nemecia” by Kirsten Valdez Quade will stay with me the same way the movie, “Black Swan” stays with me.  They both have similar disturbing skin scenes.  Nemecia is an almost older sister to Maria, but in the end, they become neither sister nor friend.  It’s really the story of how grief creates competition in us.

Black Swan by It’s Too Dark @ Deviant Art (Creative Commons)

“Nemecia had an air of tragedy about her, which she cultivated. She blackened her eyes with a kohl pencil” (Narrative).

  • Most disturbing story in the collection is easily “Trust” by Dylan Landis (Tin House).  I was so uncomfortable with this story.  It felt a little bit like someone giving you a creative writing prompt like “If your house burned down, what would you take.” And immediately you start to live through your house burning down, and how the flames flicker, but they don’t flicker and you realize you’ve never experienced a fire and they probably gust like a parachute.  It’s just like that except it’s a teenage robbery and I just wanted it to end (in a good way…in a good writing way).  It’s also like every Law & Order episode that you live in fear of, except this is MID-DAY and you start to realize that this could happen at anytime of day, not just when you’re sleeping (which is terrifying).
  • “Old Houses” by Allison Alsup (New Orleans Review) tells the old neighborhood folktale from the perspective of a barbecue.  It’s just creepy enough to not really affect you personally, but add an edge to your day that wasn’t there before.  It wasn’t as strong as the others in the collection, but it did stand tall.
  • My favorite story in the entire collection is “Fatherland” by Halina Duraj (Harvard Review). I think that’s because I thought it was just going to be another World War II story, but it was beyond me giving you any account of why it’s so good.

“I tried to stop my father’s words at my ears but they would not stick.  I knew they weren’t meant for me, but I was half my mother, my father had said so himself.  Like any good soldier, my father shot bullets through the air toward a target, but did not understand collateral damage” (Halina Duraj).

  • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show @ Wikipedia Commons

    “West of the Known” by Chanelle Benz (The American Reader) was the story that has stuck with me beyond reading the last story in this collection days ago.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s the quick moves between innocence and horror.  It’s (strangely) a Wild West story, but it doesn’t have any of that gun-slinging bullshit.  Well, it does, but it’s believable.  It ain’t no John Wayne rodeo if you know what I’m sayin’. At the end of the story, something bloody terrible happens and it’s truly believable.  I can feel the rope burns still.

“For in the high violence of joy, is there not often a desire to swear devotion? But what then? When is it ever brung off to the letter? When they come for our blood, we will not end, but ton on in an unworldly fever” (Chanelle Benz).

On second thought, maybe I like this story so much because it uses the word “brung” which I obsessively, and unconsciously used for the majority of seventh grade, while my father corrected me every single time.

  • Finding who you are in the grace of picked flowers, that’s “The Women” by William Trevow (The New Yorker).
  • Snake Handling @ Wikipedia Commons

    “Good Faith” is about snake handlers during a revival and how sometimes one person can’t change the ideals instilled in us since birth.  It’s a fantastic story, truly.  It might be one of my favorites from the collection because the ending is beyond powerful.  It’s the longest story in the collection and I wouldn’t mind if it was transformed into a novel. I would read these characters again and again.

  • Guy dates Asian girl.  They disembody one another. Life goes on.  A short summary of “The Right Imaginary Person” by Robert Anthony Siegal (Tin House).

“Parents and teachers agree to forget that children are in fact lunatics, and that what we call growing up is just learning to hide it better so nobody will lock us away” (Robert Anthony Siegal).

  • “Nero” by Louise Erdrich (The New Yorker) was just depressing.  I didn’t really fall for this story, but the dog got to me.
  • Golden Light @ Pixa Bay – Free Illustration (Creative Commons)

    The way light is fractured through a window is retold in the story “A Golden Light” by Rebecca Hirsch Garcia (The Threepenny Review).  It’s one of the rarely hopeful, but then hope-squashed stories in the collection.

  • “Fairness” by Chinelo Okparanta is a disturbing story that immediately made me worry about my students and the “salt and ice challenge.”  It should be read after reading a “Cosmopolitan” magazine or obsessing over people you don’t know on social media.  Or, just listen to some Beyonce and then read this story.  A girl is obsessed with lightening her skin based on the standards set by overseas societies. BLEH.
  • I hated “The Inheritors” by Kristen Iskandrian (Tin House).  I’d almost even skip it if reading this book again.

“I like being sad, which mystified her; I like it until I reach the nadir where sadness changes, as if chemically, to repulsion and self-loathing, making me wish that I was “capable” of “handling” things instead of turning away from them in disgust until my disgust disgusts me, and my anger at my inadequacy as a human being angers me, and all of that pure, easy, delectable sorrow gets squandered” (Kristen Iskandrian).

  • “Deep Eddy” by Michael Parker (Southwest Review) is the only flash piece in the collection.  It’s about virginity and dating and how both of these things make us question everything.

“She’d lost her flower with the first of a string of boys and she liked me only in the way girls like those boys who make them forget, temporarily, some pain I hoped was only temporary” (Michael Parker).

  • The next story was kind of sad because the girl character was the worst version of myself. It’s set in Venice (I think, but I’m questioning myself now), called  “Oh, Shenandoah” by Maura Stanton (New England Review). I often say to my boyfriend, “I just want to hug you so hard it hurts” when he does something incredibly annoying.  This chick is like me in that situation, but to the extreme. And the boy, just daydreamy and unable to understand any of her cues.
  • “Opa-locka” by Laura van den Berg (The Southern Review) is about a team of sisters who fulfill their childhood hopes by becoming personal investigators. At the time, they don’t understand their need for this odd job, eating gas station snack foods on roofs in a stake-out, but as the story progresses, the reader is clued into their past and why they might need these rooftop rendezvous, for each other and just for themselves.

This O.Henry Prize Collection is one of the best I’ve read in a long time.  Not only were most of the short stories meaningful and worth the read, but I can mostly remember each one even though I read some of them as long as a month ago.  This is a collection of stories that linger and each story gets redefined as you think of it again.  I HIGHLY recommend this book. HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY, Mountaintop.

 

 

 


“Single women and men should be able to float toward each other on the waves of lust and goodwill!”

Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich

The number of post-it notes I used on this book alone could cover a small dog house. Can I say this is the best adult graphic novel ever without having read every other adult graphic novel? Do I sound like my mother after she praised that really bad eighth grade haircut and told me that we would just “run to Target and get some cute clips.”  Thanks for the alliteration, Mom, but it was disastrous, for both my seventh grade high-status at the lunch table and my personal beliefs in my own self-esteem.

My choice of reading space.

My choice of reading space.

God made my mom sorta-Catholic so she could lay down the guilt via lectures, missed phone calls, and sweetness (yes, even her sweetness is guilty).  I can ONLY imagine if she was a Jewish Russian Immigrant mother from the U.S.S.R like Lena Finkle’s mother in Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich.  The world would literally be quaking. Literally. Literally. Literally. Isn’t it annoying when people say that when you know they meant it literal to begin with and it’s not a hyperbole at all? Ask yourself that. Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel  is like the story of womanhood as it pertains to the male sex, and girlhood in general.  It begs several questions: *How many friends do you have that disappear as soon as they get boyfriends? *How many of those friends become the stuck-up dark, unknown regions of their boyfriend’s body as soon as they begin dating? *How many times have you been unhappy, and unable to be yourself because you’re trying to keep the peace between you and the obnoxious invaluable boy you’re dating? *How many times has a guy smiled at you and BAM you’ve planned your 3.7892 children?

Miracles.

Miracles.

*(Longest sentence ever) How many times have you let one small miracle of a man blast your entire view of manhood and your princess experience into this other-worldly category that no one will ever be able to compete with because he was too good at ________ and all others will miserably fail in comparison and forever be the “frogs” you have to kiss because OH MY SWEET LORD, HE WALKED ME HOME IN THE RAIN AND MADE FACES AT ME IN ENGLISH 101 which I, unfortunately, got a C in because I was too busy MAKING FACES AT A BOY who would ruin my whole ideal of what it is to fall slowly.  There is no slow with these miracle men who tell you fascinating things about yourself and then become chain-smoking losers. Yep. You know who I’m talking about. *How many times have you said, “Well, it isn’t really about how he looks?” Girl, please. It is 120% about how he looks in the first moment you meet. And you have already judged the scar next to his mouth and the way one of his eyes looks a little bit smaller than the other.  And you’ve already texted your equivalent to a Seth (my best guy friend) to tell him all about him…in the bathroom.

When Anya Ulinich originally illustrated in color. From her Tumblr BLOG

*How many times have you let your past experiences with men like all of the above dictate what kind of dater you are now? *How many times have you wished for a magic barrel? And no, I don’t mean online dating here. (Even though she does that in the story on OK Cupid…which reminded me to never, ever, ever online date, ever. “Vampire of Bensonhurst,” that’s all I have to say about that one). Well, ladies, all of your (desperate, berating, disgusting, upsetting, I-dont-want-to-be-this-girl-but-I-am-this-girl, when-did-I-become-this-girl) questions have been answered by Anya Ulinich and the story of Lena Finkle. Lena Finkle is an immigrant girl living in Arizona/New York.  During the story we learn about her childhood, a very disgusting happening in an elevator, and then her teenage love, Alik, who she continues to fantasize about …until she’s 36.  She has some bad habits; sleeping around on the first date, sleeping with married men in foreign countries, being too blunt with her friends when they don’t have the same feelings towards her month-long flings as she does, but she’s SO likable.  There were moments in this book when I had to remind myself that Ulinich wasn’t telling my life story. After reading it, I progressed to have a conversation with my best friend (Seth) about which countries we were because of the following images: image 3   I wonder if everyone has dated the “tourist.”  The guy that comes and goes without giving even a half-nod towards closure.  Which makes the girl stay up until 2 a.m. because she can’t quite figure out what she did wrong.  Turns out, it’s him. But she won’t know that for 7.2 years when she forgives herself for being “that girl,” and finally moves on. image 4 Seth said, “Cassie. you are Sweden. // but we both can’t be Sweden // I’ll be Norway. boys are more exotic there.” And then he said, “You are Santorini // white pale and stunning // and surrounded by beautiful men.” And that folks, is why you keep best friends since 6th grade.

Real Conversations. Between Real Best Friends

Real Conversations. Between Real Best Friends

By the way, he’s the following: “You are Alaska where they have 37 words for snow and only one word for love because when you feel it like that it doesn’t need 700 words.” ———————————- Anyway, enough about me. This book is wonderful.  It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this endless pool of Mr. Right/Soul Mate/Marriage business.  I don’t know why there’s so much pressure on women anyway to put on that white dress and take another last name.  Lena Finkle made me feel like that was okay.  Although, she was a little desperate, a little quick, and a little uncanny at times, so am I.  I had a 30 minute conversation today about how blunt one should be with their friends.  In case you’re wondering, I’m the blunt, bitchy friend in my circle of friends so usually people only come to me with a problem when they want the truth as I see it.  (That was all about me, sorry). The graphics in this book are stunning. Most of the time I just wanted to laugh out loud at the illustrations to the side of all the words.  I think that’s what makes this graphic novel so perfect, Ulinich found the perfect genre to tell a tale of sadness, pity, and redemption because there were laughable moments due to the comic nature of the graphic novel.  (I guess they can be dark and brooding as well).  When words got too dark on the page, I could count on an illustration that made it just that little bit better.  The hope was in the hand drawn panels, faces, and bittersweet graphics.

One of my favorite pages.

Penguin had the right customer when they sent me an ARC of this one.  It’s just beautiful in all ways.  I think every woman should have to read this book just to think a little different about their friend’s experiences.  Yes, we all get annoyed with that friend who’s constantly talking about a guy that is SO NOT RIGHT for her, but that’s what friends are for, because they’re forever.  Yvonne and Eloise lift Lena up to be a better woman.  She may not always listen to their advice, and they might not even follow their advice, but they give her that little nudge she may need to see things differently.  Not only are they gem friends in this novel, but Lena’s subconscious acts as another character as well.  At one point, Lena is obsessed with a man who already broke her heart, and she becomes the graphic image of a duck.  Her subconscious picks at her, tells her inner thoughts and her “what ifs” just like that small inner voice that we all carry that whispers “stuff” when we just don’t want to hear it. Mine always says, “Told ya so,” A LOT.

Lena as Duck

Her subconscious is an integral part of the illustrations (she’s small, the same size as the duck Lena becomes), but she’s also witty and forward.  She’s what we want to say to ourselves when we should put our foot in our mouth.  I really liked that real-life aspect of this novel because it’s true.  Our inner self screams everything we would never say aloud (unless we’re the blunt friend). In a world where no one is sure of themselves, this novel could make women feel just that little bit more accessible to one another.  And that, is golden. AND AH – ANYA ULINICH HAS A TUMBLR. GO HERE NOW. 


Feminism: Getting Sticky With It.

I’m sitting here eating a handful of mini-oreos because last week my best friend and I had a sleepover and made sundaes. Leftovers are the best.

Clearly, I am not concerned about the potential poundage that could be added on from the mini-oreos, even if I did check the calorie count and how many I could eat per serving to meet the endless food intake quota that women everywhere are trying to live up to.

Is this a quality of my feminism? No.

Is this a quality of societies expectations for women? Maybe.

Does it matter if these Oreo pieces are damn good? No.

Rosie the Riveter @ Wikipedia Commons

Feminism is a touchy word these days.  Well, let’s be honest, since we got the vote, feminism has been all the rage on both sides.  I think part of the problem with the entire feminist movement is the word that we came up with to introduce ourselves. The very root “fem” became a slang word for women in 1936.  Just by opening the word with that root we’ve already eliminated the likelihood that men will feel comfortable in calling themselves by this name (That’s not the point though is it, however, men can be feminists. I’m here to break your stereotypes).  The rest of it “femini” is basically the word “feminine,” just two letters short.

Computer Engineer Barbie @ Eric Steuer (Flickr)

This brings us to a whole new argument about societal expectations of gender.  Why is the girl aisle covered in pink and the boy aisle covered in blue?  Why is Barbie so skinny (which is just a sad argument for women all together because do you know that Barbie is one of the few female toys that has offered careers for girls in male dominated areas.  Barbie went to space, people, Barbie worked for NASA.  Think about it).  With all of these already bias, already argued about, already heated ideas attached to the beginning of the word, how will it ever reign tall?

While my definition of feminism is just a person who believes in equal rights for all genders (I’m looking at you, LGBTQ), I think other people look to stereotypes for their definition.  So let’s knock a few of those out before I give this review, shall we?

Have I ever burned a bra? Nah, brah, those things are expensive.

Do I hate men? No, I have a lovely boyfriend and have had many lovely and not so lovely boyfriends.  I try not to hate anyone, but sometimes the fact that getting higher up in a company means fighting your way through an “old boys club” is not very likable.  And the people that continue to follow that system of hiring, firing, giving raises and promotions, might be on a list of people that I don’t particularly want to work for or be friends with.

What I might hate is people like this:

Yahoo screen grab

Yahoo screen grab

I would like to think that in four years, he’s had some new experiences and learned not to write the word “b*tch,” even with a star, in a feminist conversation.  However, he did make up the word “vaginamony” so I should give him credit for enhancing the English language, right? Just for your information, and his, I suppose, I believe that the best thing a woman can have is her “shit together” and I will raise my daughter with this in mind.  She can get hers, before she relies on any man to get it for her. However, if once she’s followed her dreams and she’s found a man that respects both her and her dreams, she can by all means trust and rely on him.

Hair @ Wikipedia Commons

Do I whine more than the average man? Actually, I’m on a no complaining campaign so I’m trying to rule out all forms of whining in my life.

I do shave my legs. That’s not even a question.  Sometimes I miss a spot, go ahead and judge me.  And I swam in high school, so I might grow longer than the average woman, but I still shave those suckers.

Do I respect stay-at-home moms? Being a Mom or Dad is a full time job.  If either parent wants to stay home and raise-up babies to be wonderful, open-minded, movers and shakers in society, go on with your bad self.  One of my best friends hasn’t had more than four hours of sleep since her child was born (13 months ago), please believe if I lived in that state of exhaustion, everyone would see my diva side.

“We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

These issues were all brought to you by We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Readers may be familiar with her book Americanah. She gave a TEDxEuston talk called “We Should All Be Feminists” on her brother’s insistence.  She says in the introduction that she “hoped to start a necessary conversation.”

Talk below:

Vintage Short turned this talk into a short essay and here we are.  It also happens to be featured on Beyonce’s self-titled album, which Adichie told Vogue that she’s sick of hearing about.

She begins the book talking about her best friend, the first person to call her a feminist which she knew immediately wasn’t a compliment.  From then on, she began attaching other things to feminism to make herself seem less radical, because with the word feminism, comes the extremism. She attached things like “Happy Feminist,” then “African Feminist,” and finally, “Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men and Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss and High Heels for Herself and Not For Men.”

This begs the question: why can’t a girl just wear high heels? I feel that Carrie Bradshaw would have something to say about this.

In the talk’s essay, she tells stories from throughout her life when she was considered less than to her male counterparts.  There was the classroom monitor choosing, which led her to this amazing statement:

“If we do something over and over, it becomes normal.  If we see the same thing over and over, it becomes normal.  If only boys are made class monitor, then at some point we will all think, even if unconsciously, that the class monitor has to be a boy.  If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem ‘natural’ that only men should be heads of corporations”

Beast & Princesses @ Wikipedia Commons

This is also where I really started to believe in Adichie’s argument.  Her argument wasn’t about women getting paid less than men for the same job, or women hitting a glass ceiling in major corporations, but more about the subtle inequalities.  In Nigeria, even though she paid a valet, the man she was with received the “thank you” (as she says, because of course, if she has money, it must come from the man).  When at a restaurant, the “tab” is always given to the man at the table, and usually the oldest man.  This is a huge societal factor in the ways that we see men and women.  TLC makes so much money catering to a population of women who grow up in the hopes that they will one day marry a Prince Charming.  Disney teaches girls to be damsels in distress (until recently), and the aisles in Target teach girls to like dolls so they can grow up and be mommies.  I’m not saying any of this is a problem, but these things in our society are also the things that can be used against feminism, turned against women, turned into something that they might not be.

Adichie discusses history in the best sense.  She says that when men ruled the world before, it was a world based on physical strength. Now, the world is “vastly different.”  It is based on “more intelligent, more knowledgable, more creative, more innovative” capabilities and not just physical strength.  She says, and I love this, “We have evolved.”

Math Club Image @ PBS Math Club (Creative Commons)

This is the strongest point in her argument.  I think we’ve evolved when it comes to feminism as well, but have we evolved as much as the world has evolved, I don’t know.  I’ll give a personal example. In high school, I was incredible at math.  I placed into the second calculus in college and I hadn’t even taken pre-cal or calculus in high school.  I just generally didn’t like math.  Did I not like math because no women in my family, and no women in my school, and no women in my community had ever been representations of what a women can do in science? I’m not sure.  I didn’t major in STEM, I majored in English, but I probably could have majored in something heavy in math because I was good at it.  I’m not saying that my school, or community did anything wrong, but I never saw a woman engineer until I was in college.  I never really had the knowledge that a world like that existed for me.

Suffrage Parade, NYC. 1912. @ Wikipedia Commons

I’m not angry about it.  I do get angry when I feel that women are being treated unfairly because their women.  Or women are not being valued because their women.  I won’t harp on this one, but guys, Ray Rice got a two game penalty for beating and then dragging his wife out of a hotel room, and a man that says racial slurs is expelled from the NBA and any ownership of teams (not that I disagree with that at all, because I don’t, I think he got what he deserved). The worst part, Rice’s wife…she apologized. Why do we live in a world where this is acceptable?

Why is “blaming the victim” of a rape even a concept?

I believe in raising girls that know what’s appropriate, but since when is it okay to “feel a girl up” because her skirt is short or her belly is showing.  Why is it the girl’s fault that we haven’t raised men with morals and deep respect for women?

These are things that I’m still working through. These are the things that make me angry. And Adichie told me that’s okay.

The first SlutWalk in Toronto, Ontario, April 3, 2011 @ Wikipedia Commons

“Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos.  And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not have made it so angry.  But I was unapologetic.  Of course it was angry.  Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice.  I am angry. We should all be angry.  Anger has a long history of bringing about social change.  In addition to anger, I am also hopeful, because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to remake themselves for the better.”

Like her, I am both hopeful and angry.  I am hopeful that I can live in a world where it’s okay to be feminine and a feminist.  I can live in a world where yoga pants do mean cat calls.  I can live in a world where the glass ceiling is broken and we are “movin’ on up,” like George Jefferson.  And I am hopeful that the world will not make this about another issue that isn’t relevant to equality.  And I’m really hopeful that I won’t feel the need to censor myself on my own personal blog to cater to the beliefs of other people.

On a final note: I feel less compelled to fight for feminism in my own country when teenage girls are being shot, tortured and killed just because they want to attend school or get an education for themselves.  By fighting for feminism in our country, we can hope that our voices ring true and pure to other countries, other populations, and other outlooks, where women may have so few rights that they are categorized as “property.”

Links on feminism education:

Here are some tweets from the #WomenAgainstFeminism hashtag.  Tweets are both for and against feminism as the feminists went viral using the same hashtag.

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Saudade.

Words and Their Meaning by Kate Bassett (Flux Publishing)

This book had perfect timing.

This book was too overwhelming to read in a day.

This book was too tender to feel all at once.

And yet, it wasn’t bleak, it was fervent.

It’s hard sometimes to be pushed by a book.  You don’t want to believe the heat of your own nerves.  But this book is unfathomable.  I was moved more than any book I’ve read this year and I think this book is categorized YA.  However, it’s one of those books that will sit in every section of the bookstore.  It actually aches to know that because this book was published by Flux Publishing (quickly becoming one of my new favorite publishers) it may not get a chance at large retail stores.  So, before we get into anything, here is the link to preorder this book.  Which, you must, you must. I will become fervent, the word of this review.

Grief by Edgar Bertram Mackennal (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

Okay, I know right now that everyone is obsessed with the okay? okay. of The Fault In Our Stars. However, grief has other angles.  Grief isn’t a box, it has too many sides, and can’t be constructed together with engineering, or math.  It has several smells, several letters, and there is no google search that will tell you how many words for “sad” that any language has.  (If you find one, link to it). Wikipedia hasn’t even tried to tackle the “sad” arena.  The best way I can describe the characters of this book is by using the word: saudade. I wrote it on my very first pair of pink converses from 9th grade.  It’s a Portuguese word for “melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing may never return” (Wikipedia).

COMMISSION: Coffin Set 1 by CiLiNDr0 @ Deviant Art (Google Image Creative Commons)

Anna is a girl consumed so much with grief that she practices coffin yoga.  The art of making yourself so still that death is close, breathing on your cheek.  It means holding your breath, it means stillness, it means the calmness that comes from within the closed coffin.  She thinks of the coffin as her secret keeper, where all the thoughts she doesn’t want to think can go and die.   Her grief, like everyone’s grief, is not rational.  Her family life has fallen apart.  Her sister, Bea, tracks her grief by hiding for hours in areas like the oven (Holy shit is right).  Which leads to Anna’s references to literature (Hey, Sylvia, I’m lookin’ at you girl).

“The shrinks all want to talk about coffin yoga.  They can’t fathom the way some people have no rhyme or reason to their mourning.  How maybe there are more ways to grieve than the stupid five steps outlined in their colorful pamphlets.  Next time I see my new doc, I’ll probably tell her I’m adding a no-thinking rule into coffin yoga.  She’ll ask what it might symbolize.  And I’ll glare at her ridiculous red-rimmed glasses and flowing tunic.  I’ll speak slow and clear, so she might understand there’s nothing representative about this.  My mind just needs the break.  Because: That crack in the ceiling looks like a vein” (Words and Their Meanings).

Notegraphy-Made Quote from Words and Their Meanings

Notegraphy-Made Quote from Words and Their Meanings

Anna’s grief is real.  It will break you as you read.  It would be especially hard to be her best friend, Nat, because I can’t imagine trying to build a bridge to reach her.  She’s so inside the tunnel of herself that nothing exists outside of that shadow.  She’s in the darkness so often, it’s impossible to even reach under into the “coffin” and pull on her arm.  While Anna is the main character, the other character’s are just as strong.  Nat, the best friend, has her own story of love and loss.  Gramps is a maker of machines, a fixer, an upper, (separately and together), and he folds creases into cranes with his grandchildren.  Joe is the cause of the grief, he is Anna’s Bruncle.  They share roof and cloud philosophy and then they begin to separate.  They try to hurt one another in order to save one another.  It’s a difficult relationship, and it’s even more difficult for the reader because Joe never has a voice in the novel, he is built by the characters around him that are crumbling.  The family is beautiful and broken and the best part is that you never hate one of these characters.  They are consumed with otherness and yet, they are still lovely.  It just proves, love the broken things; don’t throw the mug away without the handle, don’t laugh at the girl with the scars, hug the people who were built on a foundation of cracks.

“Our relationship still has too many blank spaces, and I’m sick of people I love being defined by stories I haven’t heard first hand” (Words and Their Meanings).

Then, there’s a boy. We all knew that was coming. However, like Frozen, he is not the answer to all of Anna’s problems. And he has his own story.  That’s the best part of this novel, each character has a distinct story that is enough to make them.  He is swoon-worthy though, as expected.  We all would have wanted to meet him in high school.

I loved this book.  I was a mountain while I read, it was that good.  In the end, I had tears in my eyes because of Anna’s own becoming.  She’s a writer, this book is full of art and lies and the dynamics of family that has been torn apart to be put back together.  It’s a story of the flower of grief that can clog our throats and trap our humanness in its roots.  The plot was so new, and so inviting.  It left me.

“I can still taste what it feels like to be sixteen and totally f#$ked up” (Words and Their Meanings). 

Holly Kuchera Leftover Camera: Canon G9 8.21mm – f3.2 – 1/60 sec (@ Flickr – Creative Commons)

It just left me. There’s no way it left me, it just left me. I sat there puzzled and immediately wanted to review it.  I can’t even explain how good this book is, what an amazing story and what an important story for teenagers and people who once were teenagers (cough, cough).  Anna is all of us.  She’s me when I cut all my Barbie’s hair at seven and they all forever wore pixie cuts.   She’s me when I taped sad Tumblr quotes to my mirror about teenagehood when I was sixteen.  She’s me when I stood in a row of bleachers tonight and prayed with over two hundred people for our county quarterback.  Grief is a thing.  It grows, it forms fists, and it listens while people beg for it to leave.  But it’s a silent killer.  And I think this book shows how grief can own someone.

Someone once said, “Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle,” and this book is the truth of that statement.  Every single person in this story has an inner self and an outer self and they’re always at odds.  I think we all live that battle a little bit, especially in a social media world where everything is how we present ourselves on the interwebs vs. who we are in real life.

Kindness Quote @ Creative Commons (Flickr – http://www.RepairLabs.com)

“We’re all made of opposites, and they often crucify us” (Words and Their Meanings).

And if we could each get closer to that small spark that makes us who we are in real life then just imagine what kind of things we could conquer.  We could be the Beyonce.  We could be the cornerstone. We could be the flashlight that alights someone stuck in their wood coffin.

This book is out September 8th from Flux Publishing.  It can be preordered now.  Be sure to comment your thoughts below or visit the Books & Bowel Movements instagram @bookishcassie to see my 15-second book review.

 


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