Readathons: DiverseAThon

I suck at readathons.  I think I read harder when no one is making it a “thing” and it’s just something I know I need to do for my own mental well-being.  However, there are a few readathons that represent matters close to my human bean spirit.

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Twitter Chats: DiverseAThon

DiverseAThon is one of those very readathons. It is a readathon for celebrating diverse literature; diverse authors, diverse places, and diverse histories.  Kelly’s Rambles actually introduced me to it from her blog.  DiverseAThon has its own Twitter handle and hashtag.  They’re actually hosting a Twitter Chat tonight at 8 pm for anyone interested and they will do one everyday for the entirety of the week long readathon.  It’s always good to chat with like-minded people, especially if you’re like me and you strongly prefer spending your Sundays only talking to your animals.  My week actually consists of the nagging thought, “Is it Sunday yet?” This is the life of the homebody.

 

c2tobw-uqaipsopBecause they’re social media savvy and know that bookworms prefer various social media tools, there are Instagram prompts as well.  I won’t be participating in these, but I will gladly like all of your pictures if you choose to. All of this is up for grabs on the twitter account.

I believe whole-heartedly in supporting diverse literature.  This all stemmed from being in the classroom and realizing that there were so few books with stories that mirrored what my students went through without turning them into stereotypes or cardboard cut-outs.  I’ve said many times on this blog that I believe we need books that are windows and books that are mirrors.  Literature that we can see ourselves in is just as important as literature that transports us to new cultures and new ideas, when both of these types merge and we find ourselves at the precipice of empathy, that is just a gift.

I found that my students had obsessively read The Bluford series.  Each book was chapped and cracked open, with wrinkles of age and smudges from chip fingers holding tightly to the stories.  My students would walk to the library afterschool to get to these boxed books.  Of course I had to read them.  What I found, with fear, is that my students couldn’t find much outside of the Bluford Series.  It was its own beautiful niche, but knowing that hurts.  Where are the other books that represent my students? As the faces looking back at me in my classroom became more and more diverse (I moved to an area very close to a Lumbee Reservation), I had to search that much deeper through the glossed hardbacks in the library for books that not only reflected their stories, but wrote them thoughtfully and truthfully.  Now, Tweeters and book people like Debbie Reese, Roxanne Gay, Diverse Books, and Angie Manfredi keep me clued into literature today that is not only diverse, but accurate, meditative, and compassionate to the characters and stories within.

None of this stops because I’m out of the classroom.  I still worry that students get to the high school classroom having only read dead-white-male authors.  I still think about how often I turned to Patricia Smith when the textbooks were emptied of what I called in the classroom “literature in bubbles.”  Where all characters were able-bodied, straight, and assumed to be white.  (I’m still a little peeved with JK Rowling for just announcing one day that Dumbledore was gay without actually writing that into the literature).  I even taught world literature and was fascinated with the very few tribal stories, and aboriginal stories contained in the textbooks.  A lot of the beginning stories came from The Bible actually. Meh. In fact, I’m not sure there was one aboriginal story in the newest textbook in our book room. By year two, I had decided not to teach from the textbook at all (this involved killing a lot of trees, I’m sorry nature, until I could prove to my principal that I needed more technology).

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Pie Graph from The Rumpus / Roxanne Gay

In 2012, Roxanne Gay wrote in The Rumpus that 90% of the authors reviewed in the NY Times are white.  (There’s a pie graph in the article if you’re too lazy to actually read it).  The Guardian recently wrote that the publishing industry is dominated by white females, which definitely shows in the books published recently.  FiveThirtyEight wrote about children’s books being “still very white” and in 2015 Sunili Govinnage wrote about reading books only by minority authors for a year and found, “just how white our reading world really is.”  Govinnage gives a list of books read, if you’re interested in reading Diverse Books during the challenge, or making it a focus for this year which I highly recommend.  Vida Count has been giving us data for multiple years now on the publishing industry and its diversity. See 2015 here and look at the trends from years prior.

While I don’t think dedicating just a week of the 52 you have in a year to diverse literature is enough, I do believe it’s a start if you read mostly white-washed literature.  And I don’t mean “diverse” to only categorize race, but race, gender, sexuality, illnesses, disabilities, geography, landscape, and histories.  (I really want to put etc, but I almost feel like that’s really inconsiderate). I need to do better at reading books with characters that have different sexualities than my own.  I think I will make that a goal of this year.  Actually at the women’s march yesterday I had to explain a poster to my best friend that read, “Support all of your sisters, not just your cisters.”  Without diverse literature, I would never be able to understand and empathize with that sign.

If you’re considering participating and you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of some of my favorite diverse authors, and diverse character choices.  I would love to chat with you about any of these.

 

I am going to read the following few books during this DIVERSEATHON, particularly:

I honestly can’t believe I haven’t read In the Time of Butterflies yet, but I just haven’t.  Comment below if you have some FABULOUS recommendations of diverse books or ways you support diverse and amazing authors. I look forward to hearing about your diverse reads in the Diversathon.  Follow the readathon on Twitter, Instagram and read along with me. YAY! Let’s get “he who shall not be named” out of Simon and Schuster and get their diverse and deserving authors promoted. This is also a way to continue what you started at the Women’s March by reading and advocating for women of color, and women of differing sexualities. Make sure you post what you’re reading and write about the why. When people know you’re why, they’re more likely to invest.

“There Are Great Holes in Your Newspapers. Nobody Sees Them. God Sees Them”

Because I need a few more days to mull over what I’m going to say about the new President on this blog, I thought I could review one of my already favorite books of the year.

News25817493 of the World by Paulette Jiles was a quiet simmer, a rustle, a murmur. I hadn’t read anything about it other than it was a finalist for the National Book Award and that there were 73 people on the library waiting list before me.  That’s an accurate portrayal, not a fudged number.  I can tell now, why, and why it has such a catastrophically high Goodreads score.  Usually, even my favorite books tap out at 3.2, maybe 3.4 if there’s an influx of smart, beautiful readers, but typically all books stay average, even the good ones.  (I don’t have any stats on this, this is just sheer user interpretation).

Right now, News of the World has a 4.23 star score on Goodreads. I’m going to make the argument that it’s all about the characters (and then the setting, and then the pacing, and then the softness, in that order).  There’s two main characters and then a handful of townspeople that we meet as they travel through Texas.  The two main characters are Cho-Henna and Kep-Dun.  Captain Kidd is a former military messenger and Johanna is a girl who was captured by the Kiowa Tribe at a young age and only knows that life.  However, at the beginning of the book, Kidd accepts guardianship of returning her to what’s left of her family (an aunt and uncle) and thus the book begins.

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Map of Civil War Sites in Texas (Fort Tours)

The entirety of this book is their journey on just a few roads. Kidd is stopping in towns to read the news from local and international papers, a former print shop owner, he likes to create fairytales of far-off places in the minds of Texans, and while doing that he teaches Cho-Henna a few “house rules” without changing who she is at the core.  I fell in love with both of these characters.  By the end of the book, I could actually hear the peep of Cho-Henna’s voice saying “Kep-Dun” from behind a flour barrel, or underneath a blanket.

She was so quiet, almost silent, and yet the sound of her stays with me.  It wasn’t the voice of the character that was so moving in this book, it was the subtle sounds of everyday life that she made.  The way she patted the captains arm, or handed him dimes to be used as bullets, or ripped the lace from her skirt.  Those sounds that create a live-action movie in the reader’s heads.  I knew that countryside while I was riding, and although we had to listen for the sounds of danger, it was so easy being with Captain Kidd and Johanna just a little while longer.  I feel the same soft spot for Johanna that Kidd grows in this story.

And although we know from the beginning that this will end tied with a bow, I don’t fault Jiles for the conclusion being that neat.  This was a feel-good story from the very beginning.  I eased through the way Captain Kidd treated Johanna like she didn’t need to be anyone but herself in order to get along in the world.  He could only teach her this through his own ways of being in the world, just a visitor, always in motion, and always with a message.  At one point, he thinks the following:

“Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news.  Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed” (121).

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BFG and Dreams

I think this was just the most perfect instance of how life is made.  Whether we’re Captain Jeffrey Kidd making life after the Civil War, or we’re a child with two visions of the world that collide and collapse at random.  I’ve harped about this idea of purpose for the last several months.  I’m a pray-er, I don’t know what you guys believe, or what religious doctrine you follow, if any, but I like to send open words out into the air and hope someone is catching them (kind of like The BFG and dreams).

For a long while, every time I prayed about being a teacher, I got a solidified answer as to why I needed to keep doing it.  Even in my most desperate, cry on the side of the bed as I slide down the post, moments.  Where a whole tissue box wasn’t enough, and neither was the constant heaving, I got a sign the next day, or a word, or a moment.  When I decided to quit teaching, those signs that I was holding like small weapons against any stray ideas, went dark.  I couldn’t find anything telling me to “just keep swimming.”  I was carrying a message, but I didn’t think it was the right one anymore.

I’ve had a lot of nights where I manically mindmap my purpose.  Where I talk to myself about podcasts, and blogging, and editing, and reading, and making life. Not making a living, but just making life. I’ve tried to find goals and make them into something.  Truth be told, I’m lost as hell. But with all of that, I’m also in a moment of creation.

“To go through our first creation is a turning of the soul we hope toward the light, out of the animal world.  God be with us.  To go through another tears all the making of the first creation and sometimes it falls to bits” (56).

bigstock_failure_grunge_text_3728194-1In situations like this there’s that constant nag of failure.  It creates a lot of fear.  And that’s what wasn’t in this book.  Neither character was tied to a certain message, a certain town or person or purpose.  Both were just between living.  Sure, their road had an end.  Captain Kidd had a goal and a $50 gold coin to show for it.  He had a mission for Johanna that wasn’t of her choosing, but was still a mission they both partook.  And so maybe, it’s corny, but maybe it’s true – it’s about the journey.  I know this book was.

This was one of those moments where I hit the just right book at the just right time.  So what if the goal isn’t clear? So what if we’re reinventing all the time? If people know us as a chameleon or a lover of adventure or just someone that can’t stay focused? So what? Make life.  Make it with people who don’t have to speak because the thud of their feet in the hallway and the click of a radio button and the morning voices of Mike & Mike  are the only reconciliation you need. (Thanks, Beej).  This is true for these two characters and I would argue that it’s true for most of us.  If we gave up speaking, we would still make love with sounds.  If we lost our voices, we would still show pity, embarrassment, joy with the soft strokes of being human.

28119237News of the World is that subtle reminder that we all need.  I highly recommend this read because it will seriously melt your heart.  In many book clubs they’re recommending it be paired with Tribe by Sebastian Junger. I’m going to try to get my hands on a copy of that next.  Get both from the library and dog-ear every page you love for the next person.  Leave that muted symbol, imagine the rubbed sound of crisped page against their thumb.

Not Even Novel Enough to Be “Perks on Ecstasy”(Thanks, Nat).

I hated this book and I’m going to ruin it all for you in about three lines so if you don’t want spoilers, then stop reading right before the sign.  

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32737635The Most Dangerous Place on Earth is supposed to be a look at high school in a wealthy town that the author once lived.  She’s also tutored at in a “private learning center” in a town very similar to this one. The author, Lindsey Lee Johnson, claims that she is a “fierce defender of teenagers” in her Twitter bio, but I find this practically deafening after reading her book.  I was constantly disappointed in this book, not just once, but over and over again.  You can see it from my Goodreads status updates.  In fact, the only reason I kept reading was so that I could say “I finished the whole book” and you wouldn’t question that maybe I only hated it because I didn’t read the end.

This is one of those books that makes me think the entire publishing world (at least the big five) is one big conspiracy of “who ya know” and that gets you a good review.  Chicago Tribune RAVED about this book so it’s clear to me that their critic knows not a single teacher or a single high school student. Even Anthony Doerr blurbed for this book and I find that goods at least compelling, now I’m starting to question my author compass.  NY Times was the worst, with the audacity to call this novel “funny.”  What an adjective to choose. You know, just the flawed lives of teenagers who may or may not survive those years is funny.  Definitely, NY Times.  GET A THESAURUS.

Let me tell you just a few reasons why I hated this novel. 

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Goodreads Status Updates

ONE:

Every teacher mentioned is a stereotype.  You have the male teacher that’s sleeping with a student.  You have the young teacher who wants to be “friends” with her students and uses them to add filler to her own life.  You have the bitchy group of teachers who sit around at lunch, what we called at my recent HS, “ducks” because they complain about the whole program, every student, and anyone who chooses to be compassionate at all about a child. They exist, I’m sure each of these people exist, but to put them down on a page and add another layer of “teachers aren’t professionals” or “you can’t do? Then TEACH” to the world, seriously infuriates me.  

Did you know I’ve never had rows in my classroom? In fact, I hardly ever taught a novel until I taught AP Literature and College Board expected it. Yea, I had super comfortable furniture and a bike desk, but my students were never allowed to lounge on it, spooning, while I read them pages of a book.  Last semester, I brought the Global Brands Manager of Red Hat into my classroom to teach my students about branding and then they built their own growth portfolios.  We taught them about global citizenship.  They’ve skyped with Ambassadors and Heads of State about Human Rights.  Had their own UN Council.  Get the fuck out of here, Lindsey Lee Johnson, you clearly haven’t been in a classroom since you were a high-schooler and to write a book where every teacher is a just another figurine of these stereotypes makes me sick with disgust. 

I don’t know any teachers that add their students on Facebook.

There’s this cool thing now now called Remind where we can text through an app with “office hours” and no phone numbers exchanged.  That’s what REAL high school teachers use now.

TEACHERS DON’T SLEEP WITH STUDENTS ON THE REGULAR. Contrary to popular belief, most of us don’t go into teaching to relive our high school experience.  

Thanks for making us, teachers, ONCE AGAIN, the butt of a never-ending joke.  This is why parents don’t believe we’re killing it in the classroom.  This is why when I talk to them about “project based learning” and what’s ACTUALLY happening in education, they don’t understand.  Because they read books like yours where we’re all still teaching like it’s 1982. Like Beyonce has said plenty of times, WE’VE UPGRADED.

Guys, I’m going to apologize now for the excessive amount of all caps yelling in this review.  I am just so, so peeved and angrily texting my teacher-frands just ain’t enough.

TWO:

I get that teenagers are flawed, and they make (totally awesome) choices that adults want to both laugh and cry at.  I’ve always worked in high-poverty schools and I’ve been, not only a teacher, but their counselor, their nurse, their hug in the middle of a day, the person that greets them with their first warmness of the morning, their coach, their advisor, their mentor.  I am a FIERCE DEFENDER OF TEENAGERS.

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90s Rom Com Favorite

How can you be a fierce defender of teenagers when you literally wrote each one as a stock stereotype and each of their lives as a playbook for “reckless teens.” Not only that, but you’ve broken them down into perfect little cliques like a 90s RomCom.  That’s not defending them.  Treating them like real human beings is defending them.  Working with them through the day-in/day-out of their very real lives is defending them.  The only character that I really got could be a real human being was Damon in his section at rehab.  I was melting with that kid, I was understanding his come-up.  I got it at that point, and I got everything he did before and everything he did after.  I’ve taught him in real life.  He threw a textbook at me once, in fact. But that’s it. 

Here we have the following: the juvenile delinquent, the smart boy who’s just on the wrong path, the drug dealer, the hyper smart Asian (I MEAN COME ON), the boy who’s closeted gay (or just magically walks into the porn industry at the end of the book), the smart girl who’s parents aren’t home enough so she sleeps with a teacher, the hippie kids, the bullies, the kids that are “different.”  This review here calls what you did with these kids “archetypes.”  If you fiercely defend teens, why are yours stuck in little less-than-cute boxes?

THREE

Where are the black kids?

Maybe this article on Marin County explains this.

FOUR

You’re from this place. So, I get that.  I get that you wanted to write about it.  Were you thinking, “Hey, it’s been twenty years since I stepped into a high school.  It’s probably exactly the same as it was.  Let me write that down.” Because … that’s how it feels. 

FIVE

Golden Gate Bridge

Thanks, Wikipedia for being Creative Commons.  This is the Golden Gate Bridge.

I owed this book to Penguin Random House. They gave me an ARC and when I read on Goodreads that each chapter is narrated by a different character in a high school, I honestly thought that sounded really cool. Not quite inventive, but cool, particularly when I realized that it all surrounded and stemmed from a tragedy that they’d all experienced. I love books, typically, that switch between characters and give us a fuller perspective on one story.  

While I understand, this usually leads to an atypical plot, in this book it was kind of a let down.  I liked that it bookended on Calista and her story and experiences, but I was disappointed by the actions some of the characters decided to take, particularly because they were so dated.  The first chapter blew me away.  I was mesmerized by Tristan’s bike ride to the Golden Gate Bridge and the way he described each small detail.  

After that, pure bullshit. Every page. 


perksofbeingwallflower1These characters mean nothing to each other, and mean nothing to the reader.  This is the first book that I actually, actively don’t recommend.  I can’t back a book that pigeonholes teenagers or makes them tiny typecasts of themselves.   I don’t know why it’s getting such great reviews, other than the big five in the publishing world are dying.  Maybe it’s time to focus on Indie Reads. 

My bestie, and best reader-frand, Nat, asked if this one was like “If Perks was on ecstasy,” and I can’t even give it that novelty.   Sucked. Hard. (No pun intended). 

You’ve Reached: My Feminist Agenda

THE GREAT GATSBY, from left: Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, 2013.I’ve always been on that weird middle line with feminism where I can’t jump over the fence and burn my bras because those things are DAMN expensive and sometimes kind of pretty, but I also am definitely not on the side of “all girls should sit and be pretty.” I can’t say that I’ve always been on the side of women, I’ve talked my fair share of smack and I’ve always kind of felt (and always loathed) Daisy in Great Gatsby:

“It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about—things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'”

Some of my judgment: For too long we’ve lived in a world where women who play dumb and look pretty get ahead. It doesn’t matter if they’re legacy makers in every right (See: Kim Kardashian or Jessica Simpson), but the way women are still supposed to portray themselves for the public is to be just what Daisy said.  What these woman actually are, are bosses. Big men on campus, but it’s the “beautiful little fools” they play.

61w6r0fl1wl-_sx329_bo1204203200_After reading You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding Feminism by Alida Nugent, I have to agree that it isn’t my call to judge them for how or what they present, but what they can represent for feminism and girls everywhere. Nugent says “There are other words, too.  Bossy. Bitchy. Rude. Fat. Ugly. Stupid. Whore. I used these words when I had an agenda.  I was always looking for ways to frame other women in a way that made me seem better and more appealing.  I was a cool girl, not her, don’t you see?”  And for the record, I don’t just mean girls who are born biologically girls, but also the ones who decide / choose to come to the dark side as well.  You’re all girls in my Barbie World.

I loved this essay collection like it was a time-tested musical number or a Pablo Neruda ode. Nugent didn’t have to shout at us with her torch and teeth barred, instead she spoke feminism like a soft wave from a wet kayak.  One chapter would have the punch of lemoncello and the next would be a little quieter, but just as brave and equally meaningful.  Towards the end of the book she smacks the reader around with her to do lists on masturbation and porn, but in the middle, the soft stuff like female friendships (that are never, ever soft by the way) and virginity are breached.

mac-the-matte-lip-1When everyone else in a girl’s life is silent on these topics, Nugent is educated and sassy.  I tweeted multiple times about stalking her and becoming real friends.  One imagining even got very real: we were in the grocery store, knocking on cantaloupes because aren’t they one of those fruits when you just never know the ripeness?  Some people flick, some people tap, some squeeze slightly like the first time you touched Nickelodeon Gak, but Nugent and I, we are two in the same.  With full chapters on lipstick and the haven’s of bliss that are women’s restrooms in a crowded club (other than the pukers and the ones that have to hold their hair), I couldn’t get enough of Nugent’s perspective on feminism.

yourresponsetomybodyIn her world, and mine now that I can stop secretly torturing myself for “Hm”ing every time a dude makes a mild sexist joke, feminists can make mistakes.  They can disagree, but support all the same.  They can understand their bodies, their moral lines, but also accept everyone else’s bodies and moral lines. I finally get what all the tweets are talking about when they bash Teen Vogue or Cosmopolitan for “fat-shaming.” To be a feminist, it doesn’t mean you have to be pure as a saint or reeking of sex 23/7 (no one can have sex for an entire day, we’d all die a slow and maybe only half painful death).  It means that you – at the bottom of everything – you have to believe in other women, and believe they should get the same treatment as any man.

That means it’s okay to suck at that too sometimes.  It doesn’t mean you have to show a nipple once in a while and it doesn’t mean that you have to have a vagina pin on your backpack and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to be angry with all the dudes in your life, because some of them are kind of cute, ya know? In Nugent’s feminism, you just have to be knowledgable and accepting.

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635891019852257512-1248180650_il_fullxfull-367509095_dltlI literally, full-on, laughed out loud at work reading this book.  And it wasn’t a cute laugh, it was one of those wide mouth laughs that has you burying your face into your elbow while people kind of stare at you. To the point where I had to almost make up a reason that something would be that funny in a book.  It was.  It totally was.  I almost cried a little bit too, but mostly I laughed.  A lot.  Nugent’s voice is like listening to your girlfriend tell you a drunken story except she’s really smart so it still sounds smart, but there’s tangents of nonsense and hilarity.

I texted my best friends paragraphs of text from this book.  We joked for a few minutes about how much she “knows” us.  This is one of those girl’s girl books. If that’s not enough to pick it up and read it, I don’t know what else to tell you.  I especially liked the chapter on losing your virginity because I think someone needed to say it.

It opens:

“I did not lose my virginity.  I know exactly where it went.  It went on top of a futon in a basement that you could enter through a sliding door.  Nobody took my virginity, because my virginity wasn’t a landmass that Columbus entered and then ruined.  Nobody took my virginity, because my virginity wasn’t a number-two pencil somebody asked to borrow during a Scantron test and never gave back.  Nobody took my virginity at all.  I had sex for the first time in a condo with a sarcastic dude whom I sort of liked.  I don’t feel like this is a sad story.

mjaxnc02zdk3ntg1ztzhogvmztdjIt’s enough to feel shame about your public smile, about the way you look in a tankini, about the amount of tortilla chips you ate for … linner. It’s enough.  It’s enough to feel shame of not living up to parental expectations of “being a good girl.”  No one needs to feel shame for the way they use their body if they wanted to.  If there were 2+ consenting adults and they chose to make moves.  My religion makes me feel some shame, I think it comes with the Catholicism though and so I accept it as part of the “Catholic guilt.”  I can’t save anyone from that because it’s a lingering sort.

What Nugent can save you from is digging holes against other women (or just people) and burying yourself.  She can save you from judging someone’s past because it doesn’t match up with their present, or judging someone period because your idea of “rightness” does not align with there idea of “learning.”

Everyone always says, “think before you speak.” Maybe instead we should be saying, SPEAK. and in equal measure LISTEN, and while you’re listening don’t judge, degrade, downgrade, take back to another dinner table and spill about with giggles. Support your fellow woman and make good decisions. When they aren’t good, own them and learn.

That’s a feminist if I ever saw one. (Except I haven’t seen her even though we could totally be best friends.  This is definitely an awkward “Call Me, Maybe” moment that I will own and learn from).

PS. I kind of also wrote about Nugent’s book here when I went on a rant in support of Planned Parenthood.

Some Commentary + Ocean Vuong

Any review I generate here is not going to do this book justice. At all. Ever. If you can stand that idea, then keep reading.

23841432I know that Copper Canyon Press produces again and again significant and deeply meaningful poetry collections, but Ocean Vuong’s poetry in Night Sky With Exit Wounds is like nothing I’ve read before.  I went through some Goodreads reviews to see if everyone else thought this was fatal magic like I did, but there are some pretty critical men reviewers.  I found that kind of interesting because, like I’ve talked about in other blogs, I always wonder how much who we are when we come to a book impacts our feelings about said book.  Obviously, I have only ever read this book as a late-twenties-white-female-fan-of-beautiful-words.  No, seriously, when the guy at the desk next to me asked me what kind of books I read last week I said, “the ones with pretty words.”  I think I lost all credibility in that moment, but there’s really no other definition.  I could try to be more thoughtful with it, but what’s the use when I could be spending that time reading poetry like Ocean Vuong’s.

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This one, up here, was my favorite review.

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Notes on Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds

That’s the funny thing about reviews.  I loved this book, I wanted to eat it and share it with everyone I knew who would just “get it.”  I underlined hundreds of lines, wrote six pages of notes, was inspired to write poems about my grandfather on my mother’s side, and have post-its galore sticking neon from the pages.  I have a tender spot for poetry about heritage because in my long list of “writing territories” I write a lot, and I mean A LOT about womanhood, generations, passing down, and my grandmother.  Lately, I’ve been writing about my Dad, but my grandmother, the place that she’s buried, and what I can remember of her in the hospital after her stroke come up often on the page.

But reviews are sometimes more about the person who read the book than the actual book.  If you read them seriously, if you devolve into a book blog spiral the same way you can rabbit hole on X-factor videos, you can learn about a lot about people, specifically bookish people.  Sure, we have things in common like a lot of us prefer cats, or we drink enough coffee to not mind it black, or when we get overwhelmed we are in desperate need of pockets of quiet, but in reviewing books we are wholly ourselves.

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I also love this review…

I’ve never read a book review that didn’t have the voice of the person who wrote it.  Whether that be scene child, literature critic, NY shower curtain separated apartment dweller, or me, that girl who goes on tangents that I find a little funny, like quips.

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I thought this Google example was particularly funny.

Lately, on Twitter, I’ve been seeing people attacked for their reviews.  For all kinds of things about books, but most recently, for not liking the voice of a novel.  The reviewer used some choice language and called the book’s language “slang.”  Someone with a follower count above 500 read it and a bunch of people decided they would “educate” the blogger through harassment about their knowledge of AAVE.  (I’m really not sure AAVE is even the correct term for the colloquialism in this book because I have no idea what the book was). Whether the reviewer was correct or not, their opinion is now only solidified by the swarm of others who join in on the bullying.

When someone calls them out on it (which wasn’t me by the way, but should have been), they passive aggressively discuss how there’s a difference between being “critical” and “harassing.”  (I know, I realize by talking around it I’m being passive aggressive right now too).  The thing that bothers me the most about this is that when confronted, the Twitter mob will say things like, “I’m uncomfortable and I’m hurting by what was said so if she feels just an ounce of the my hurt as a POC, then I’m sorry, but I don’t regret it.”

previewI get that. But I also get that my Mom always told me “two wrongs don’t make a right.”  I get that literature needs diverse books (DUH).  I get that readers want books to be both mirrors and windows and that the amount of white authors, and white people on covers far out number that of any other race.  It’s actually pretty disgusting.  This makes me desperately sad. As a reader, I try to support publishers that support diversity.  I buy books about the experiences our world is facing so I can better understand how to help and when to stay quiet (shut up and listen).  I read, more than anything else, to be culturally responsible.

Thus, Ocean Vuong.  Thus, Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Thus, the other side of the face of the Vietnam War.  Because war always has a face and it’s always bleeding no matter what side you’re on.  And those that win, they pronounce that win in the books of history and own not just the “win,” but the content, the stories, the shape of the culture behind that win.  This has led us to where we are today.  I don’t believe that by capturing a snip-it of a review and calling someone a racist on Twitter, and encouraging others to do the same helps people heal or understand.  I also don’t believe most people go into the world hoping that they can expose their own ignorance, their own racism, their own blatant disrespect for other human beans.  I believe people, at their core, understand like a solid 3% of what other people, like them or not, go through on a daily basis.

douchecanoeWe were all brought up to believe something. Given a life, we are able to either uphold or upend those beliefs. It is our choice whether that comes from books, or experiences, or understanding a counter culture, or holding tight to a historical wrong, or writing our way out of all of it. I think we have to remember that people aren’t choosing to be assholes (most of the time).  Now, some people, yep, full throttle douche canoes, but most people just have no understanding of your uncomfortable, your misunderstanding, your belittlement, your poor treatment.  So, to educate, recommend them a book.  Recommend them a song or its lyrics.  Point them towards the most truthful perspective of the history they don’t understand.

Hate that authors who write bisexual characters always use “likes girls and guys?” Then email them, email the publisher, write a letter, talk more openly so that people hear the right thing more often.  Hate that a chick says there could be no characters with disabilities in Lord of the Flies because that wouldn’t work? Write a new chapter on Scribd, on Live Journal, on your blog.  Make the case that Piggy wasn’t able-bodied.  Write a book with characters who live in the real world and not a bubble of it.  Talk to someone at school, at lunch, at work, in the street that isn’t able-bodied and learn their perspective.

wenger-howapoetnamedoceanmeanstofixtheenglishlanguage-1200So, here. Here is Ocean Vuong’s poetry collection.  Here is a collection of poems dedicated to a heritage, a gene pool, and a man who loves other men, and his life shone back to him in a notebook. Here is a life on a page, like every life, that’s worth reading.  And it’s beautiful.  The repetition, the word play, the imagery, I couldn’t even breathe sometimes while I was reading.

I didn’t even realize that I was holding my breath.

I’m going to link to some of his poems down here. And then I’m going to expect you to buy this book from Copper Canyon.  Once you’ve read through every page like its a track slick with grease, I want you to read each one slowly.  Then, I want to talk to you about it in the comments because I just don’t have the “stuff” to even review this one.

Because the middle-aged white guys didn’t love this book, I went through the recommendations they made in their reviews.  And I will read them (Sarah Howe and Andrew McMillian).  Because maybe it’s me that’s missing something about Vuong and in order to justify that it’s not, I’m going to read their recommendations.  At the end of the day, my life is about how well I understood, cared for, and tended to other people.  So, I’m going to do that with as much respect as I can muster.

I also have A LOT of feelings about this article, but they’re probably for a whole other blog. If in our need to rectify histories, we discount other histories that impact the histories we’re trying to protect, then what the hell?

 

True Life: #bookstagram

There’s some odd wonderings that have come from the world of #bookstagram.  You know the world: lots of latte art, white comforters, plaid scarves, unfinished oak tables, quote pillows, and fat mugs.

At least that’s if you’re not one of those #bookstagrammers who sets up a whole scene with Christmas lights in the right season, or plastic fall leaves, all the things you wouldn’t grab if your house was on fire. Most of these people awe me daily with the way they present their books and their tiny details.  I wonder what percentage of them become decorators, architects, designers, or other creative pursuits.

#Bookstagram is extreme.  Your success doesn’t amount to how much you read, or even how much you blog, but really who notices and why.  It’s the same with most careers, the more important people you know, the better your network.

So, here’s a list for an episode of MTV’s True Life: I’m a #bookstagram(mer).  Or just a general list of what’s trending and what’s successful in the #bookish world to date.

BYOB (Be your own barista) OR you live within .2 miles of a fancy coffee shop that costs you approximately $34 a week:

*If you hover over the images, it will show you who to follow.

I love latte art like the next gal.  And I’m totally guilty of making my latte cocky with too many selfies, but when you have a great barista, and your latte looks like a rose’s cheek, then you can’t help yourself.  However, I also work everyday and although I just recently changed jobs to one where I could go sit in a cafe during my lunch break, (which I’m totally going to do because my jealousy of this latte art is at a high level), I understand if the average #bookstagrammer can’t manage this trend. Here’s a helpful coffeetube.

The mystery of the white comforter / white corner / white table (A Nancy Drew collectible):

White walls used to be for the insane, but who says #bookstagram isn’t crazy? I live in fear of accidentally (and totally) buying a white comforter for these shots only to spill immense amounts of coffee (and let’s be honest cheese) on it. I’m clearly the only one.

You need a window. Get a window. TO THE WINDOW, TO THE WALL:

Natural light goes a LONG way in the Bookstagram world, you know, window to the soul and all that.

Say it with a view:

Everyone has to vacay … not this crowd.  Stop on the beach and hold up a book.  In the snowy mountains skiing, no problem, a book fits perfectly in that inner, inner, deep layer of your third sweater in.

Hoard Trinkets:

I would just make a plain and total mess of this, but @foldedpagesdistillery knocks it out of the park every. single. time.

Color Coordinate: 

Guilty as charged.

Open Up a Little:

We have to prove we’re actually reading somehow, don’t we?

Bookstagram is a cheeky business.  Newcomers are coming on daily and they may have better light in their house, bigger windows, a cheaper coffee house than F.R.I.E.N.D.S (and that one was pretty much free while Jen was there). There are big names in the game like @igreads and people who have gotten jobs at publishing houses because they’re book-famous.  Gain 40k followers, get your dream job.  We live in a strange world folks, but #bookstagram is always there to make you question your lifestyle choices and how too few books you’re reading for that inevitable Goodreads Challenge.

I need to start a new hashtag like #bookoff for when I just want to post a picture of the Beej without any books (or cats).  But you can’t. Bookstagram doesn’t rest, and neither should you.

Categorizing My Book Reading: Not as boring as you’d think.

Happy New Year, everybody! Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots… just kidding. It’s more like bed, bed, bed, bed! In fact, Fro and I are writing this quick blog from the bed where breakfast was also had this morning, along with list making, and the finishing of my first book of the year, Calamity Leek.  

I’m here to talk about my bookish journey for this year. Why not start this on the very first day.  You know, goals and shit.  I’ve broken my books for the year into five categories because what better use of your time than to make unneeded lists? My plan, thanks to Claire, is to read 52 books.  And yes, I already submitted this number to the Goodreads deities and will be kicking myself in four months because I’m two books behind.

Anyway, my categories will have me reading with purpose and if I’m lucky, a little exhilaration.  I believe this is just the kick I need to never be books behind, but instead be books ahead.  Plus, I’m picking up a few audiobooks for my drives to work so those will add to my number. I feel like a middle school girl with a list of boys she’s kissed talking about “my number.”

The first category my books this year will fall under is my Word of the Year. I wrote about my journey to this word on Almost an Independent Clause. This is my “lifestyle” blog because that’s the term we’re using in the world at the moment. WAH.

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This category will consist of books that will make me want to be more TEND(ER) because that’s my word/s of the year. I already have some names and titles for this list, but would LOVE to know recommendations in the comments that I can add to it. I especially need fiction titles.

  1. Rebecca Solnit titles, I’m starting with A Field Guide to Getting Lost
  2. Please Don’t Eat the DaisesJean Kerr
  3. 20-Something, 20 EverythingChristine Hasser
  4. All things by Lynda Berry (I read Syllabus last year and it changed the way I taught).
  5. All things Anne Lamott because if anyone can make me shut up and write, it’s Anne Lamott.
  6. My Journey Through War and PeaceMelissa Bunch

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51zbbuqw2bjlI’ve been writing this blog for six years and I’ve only published one set of poems outside of it.  My big dreams of working my way through an MFA are kind of, and really terrifyingly coming to fruition this year, at least on my part.  I’ve started sitting down to write every single day, in a routine, in a notebook.  I write, then type whatever I wrote and highlight the parts that move me outside of the poem and then I go to the next day.  I haven’t quite figured out my revision process yet, but I’ve started pursuing writing daily, sometimes multiple times a day.  And I’m not talking about blog writing, but writing. Poetry and essays.  I had a good cry about all of this several times last month. It’s scary when you decide to go for your dreams, I get why so many people don’t. But this leads me to having a category on writing.

So here’s my list so far for that:

  1. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  2. Essays of E.B. White
  3.  Women Will Save the World – Carolina A Shearer
  4. The White Album – Joan Didion
  5. George Orwell’s all the things
  6. Uprooted: An Anthology
  7. Annie Dillard all the things
  8. Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation by Tom Bissel
  9. Kurt Vonnegut all the things
  10. Aldous Huxley Essays
  11. The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz
  12. First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
  13. I Feel Bad About My Neck – Ephron
  14. Mary Karr all the things
  15. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Funny thing is that people have already introduced me to a lot of these books, but I have just neglected them to some dust corner of a bookshelf, or book pile near a chair in the house.  Seth has sent me First They Killed My Father and my Mom has purchased a lot of these books for me over the years.   I could write a whole blog on how and when and why people come to the books that they do, but that would be another time.

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This is where you come in lovely people of the blogging community.  My best friend Nat gives no shortness of YA reads for me, but I think it’s only right that I take a bunch of recommendations from all the readers that I love and trust, and I start damn reading them.  And I’m not talking about the books that we see everywhere, all flashy, across Instagram stories, but the ones that moved your soul.  The ones that linger or stayed with you for months afterwards. I want those.

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The Anti-library: because I own probably over 1,000 books and because like Umberto Eco, I believe it’s more valuable to own more books you’ve never read.  So, I’m dedicating my time to reading some of those.  I need to be a little more Belle on the library ladder if you know what I mean.

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Quail Ridge is my favorite. 

So, this category is the last and stems from my desperate Google search for a children’s book that I saw in Quail Ridge Books months ago. BJ was in the middle of checking out and I stepped into the children’s section for a little feel good moment and came straight to this book. It’s called (and don’t laugh because it’s ironic) Child of Books. We were going to be late for trivia if I waited in line so I took pictures of the pages and thought about that book for months.  For Christmas I got an Amazon gift card and I purchased that book in the haul because it spoke to me.  My Mom always talks about art speaking to her and that’s why she can’t buy art for my house, but that’s the way some books come calling.  I don’t make a habit of reading children’s books, although I probably should because they’re pure magic and I found 298,734 more that I wanted to read on Amazon last night while trying to find the name and title of this children’s book, but I don’t. So, there’s a splurge and a reason for this category.

Let’s be honest, guys. I can make any book fit into any of these categories, but I want to have them categorized because I need that purpose for my reading.  How do you organize your reading? Is it just based on whatever you come to in the bookstore? Or maybe you have dedicated yourself to no longer shopping for books because you’ll read exactly what’s on the shelf at home. Whatever it is, share below! I’m always flexible and you may make me change my ways.

No Goodreads Goal? BIG PROBLEM.

I get jealous sometimes of the people who can just steam through YA fiction all year, blog every two days, and create this center of magic.

I am not that person.

And this year without a Goodreads goal, I was even more of a flailer. This is me December of last year:

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See how I’m SO not held down that my hair is blowing straight in the wind?

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Knock Knock even made a fancy pro/con list.

I’ll take Flounder-er’s throughout history for 200, Alex. Because that’s what I was this year.  Unlike Book Stacks Amber, I didn’t just lower my goal, I got rid of that sucker altogether for a year. I took the advice of countless blogging sages who have come before me like Jessica Pryde at Book Riot and Broke By Books.  Surlymuse got into my head a little bit too and like any good working gal, I made a pro / con list. Countless ex-boyfriends have been through this routine and someone could have just saved me if they said, “If you have to even write pro / con about a boy on a piece of notebook paper, he’s not worth your time.” However, I take the Ben Stiller approach (in Along Came Polly) and like to know exactly what I’m getting into, with both books and boys.

The list had more cons because I wanted it to and so I didn’t write in a goal this year. Surlymuse called the way Goodreads tracks books is, “some kind of perverse commodity” and I felt that too.  For too long, I had avoided books over five-hundred pages because I wouldn’t keep up with my Goodreads goal in the long run. And Goodreads is such a gem for telling you how far behind you are every year.  In 2015, I got seven books behind and felt like I was turning circles at sea. I turned to short children’s books to fill the gap, or poetry chapbooks, or even just those one-off story collections from Vintage American that Goodreads totally counts as a full book.  I’m also a Goodreads librarian so I can add those short, sad, totally not books to Goodreads as if they were.

Is this abusing my power or are there people like me out there?

Whatever short, probably not as fulfilling as long drawn-out works, I could find would be on the list. They just fit so well into my Goodreads goal catchup list. It’s worth it if you can just maintain the goal.

The goal would say, “How could you only read three books in September when you know you must read five to even be in the running?” WHERE IS YOUR MOTIVATION, SOLDIER.

And I gave that all up.

blog250113-michelleAnd what happened was sort of disastrous. Without a goal, I was flying solo. I was a Beyonce without Destiny’s Child, at least I felt that way in the beginning, until I was Michelle without Destiny’s Child.

But now I have the gift of looking back on my reading this year and it is a sad, sad state of affairs.  I’m not even sure I can do a Top 10 books list (or 5 if you’re stingy) because I read so few books, that were so random, that I can’t even equate them within the same lists. There are months under my “Read in 2016” where I had to write something like “I did not read a single book this month (because I’m a heathen).” That was a statement written in fear of leaving a whole month blank.

ywmqvkfsMostly, I can sum up my reading this year in one statement: I read what I had to teach to my AP Literature kids. Which, thank goodness for my own choosing, wasn’t just the Western Canon. Towards the end of the year, I hit up some #diversebooks hashtags on Twitter and found that I had actually read a lot of literature, and nonfiction about the African American experience. I think subconsciously as an educator, and consciously as a human, I wanted to be both less ignorant and more thoughtful. My best friend is a mixed white and black man and I wanted to really understand when he told me to “use my privilege.” I needed to understand my current world a little bit better, but … I think I would have still done that with a Goodreads Challenge. I think I would have done more of it and been better at it actually.

Instead, this year, I read a lot of half books. If you asked me how many books I didn’t finish, but I got to a juicy part, I could tell you it’s over one hundred.  There were too many book piles on the floor next to my bed, in the currently reading bookshelf, the to be read bookshelf, and the bookshelf in the home library.  Plus, I took frequent trips to the library and we live within two miles of a used bookstore.  It’s all unhealthy actually.  So, this all led me to finishing hardly anything.  I was a snacker of books. I grazed and got too full and moved on before even the finale of anything. If I read the whole thing it’s because I had to or I was drawn to.

22822858I was flailing. I still am flailing. I started This Little Life and talked to my friend Sage about reading it together and then after one Book List with the first book of calamity leek as an undiscovered gem, I immediately switched back to reading that. I haven’t touched it since the plane to Iceland. I’ll pick it up like no time has passed like I’ve done all stinking year.

So for the sake of sanity, and for an anchor, I’m going back to the Goodreads Challenge this year. I’m just giving in and admitting that as a Capricorn gone Sagittarius, sticking to Capricorn (Thanks, NASA), I need a goal to keep me driving, but to also keep me on the damn road.  No tangents, no veering, no “OU, Squirrel” moments for my reading schedule next year. I will be pushed once again by the man, that is Amazon Goodreads.

What are ya’ll’s plans for the Goodreads goals?

(I just wanted to use ya’ll’s in a sentence … twice).  Will you keep them and be held down or will you let go and float in space and see what happens to your reading happens.   I would love to hear from you (no, seriously, lack of comments gives me anxiety).

If you need some more goals, check out this year’s reading challenge: Book Better

There’s a Goodreads group: Book Better and a Twitter: #bookbetter2017. Details on the Book Better Challenge Page.

When Discussing Diverse Books: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

twitter1Guys, Twitter is kind of a terrifying, brilliant, and secret place.  Sometimes, I sit there wondering if this is the only place most people have a voice, even journalists in today’s political and economical climate. In just the ten days where I transitioned from a full-on teacher Twitter account to one for bookish and Cassie things I’ve watched the following: people harassed for days over one ill-worded (or even just ill-timed) tweet.  Authors berated for being pro-Trump. I’ll be honest, in my personal life, I had no clue that Trump would be elected because I had literally not one single person in my circles that would ever vote for that man.  Like last female on the planet shiz. However, I’ve been a little horrified.

Here are the things I know:

*People lash out because of their collective memory on injustice that their background (whatever that may be) has faced due to abuse, bigotry and ignorance across time and space.

shame-gif-1465520937*While shame and guilt are very real feelings, sometimes that isn’t the way that sways people to  see another side. Particularly when you’re going all Game of Thrones walk of shame on them.  Getting a posse of others like you to gang up on this Twitter person and tweet abuse and harassment towards them probably only makes them believe further in their own bigotry.

*We do not have enough diversity in books to justify quieting any voice that speaks out for diversity in books.

*Some of the comments on writing diverse books really rub me the wrong way.  Things like, “I don’t think white people should write about other races at all, keep your mediocre hands off of that literature.”  With the same person tweeting things earlier in the day like, “if your world in your book is full of only white characters then your book is in a bubble that doesn’t exist.” (That last one I definitely agree with, but both of these tweets cannot exist in the same book).

All of this has made me do some serious soul searching.

homegoing_custom-09de3d52d3ab0cf5400e68fb358d53da9c78afe6-s400-c85I pride myself on reading diverse books. A lot of the times because I want to learn, but more importantly because I want to listen.  In fact, I listed my favorite authors out for a student the other day and every single one was a woman + Junot Diaz. I also try really hard to not just read bestsellers (or books graciously and eloquently thrown down our throats by the NY Times Best Seller’s List or Kirkus Reviews).  I’m not saying this because I have something to prove in my small corner of the internet. On the contrary, it’s because I’m about to review the book Homegoing by 27-year-old Yaa Gyasi from a white female perspective, probably really close to what the world has come to know as white feminist perspective.

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If I ever sound like this, CALL ME OUT. 

See the following for a clearer definition of white feminism: Tilda Swinton’s emails, Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift and her adult cheer squad, and all of the Huffington Post tags.

I’m owning it because I have to in order to write about diverse literature.  In every solid academic research paper, the author must spell out their limitations, and this one is mine. I come from a place of white feminist baggage. That’s what I’m carrying to your table, and what I’ll try to leave behind as I grow in perspective and curiosity.


I’m not going to lie, halfway through this book I tweeted the following:

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I feel bad for this tweet. It sucks. No one liked it, and they shouldn’t have. (And I actually think I got the wrong publisher too, to top it off. Sorry, Alfred A. Knopf).  At the 48% mark  (thanks, Kindle for always making me feel great about my reading speed) I just didn’t get it.  I didn’t get the magic of what Gyasi was doing here.  Twisting two family trees, coppicing.

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I’m obsessed with the UK cover. 

Now there were times in the novel when I got lost. When I left it for two days and came back to the middle telling of a new character’s story and I would have to read a few pages to know where we stood in time and place, but taking two families from African diaspora all the way through the millennium is a feat that I’ve never seen before in literature. And for that I will forever be in awe of Gyasi’s breakthrough in an art that doesn’t always adapt easy to change.  Maybe this is why so many avid readers had troubles with this book though.

The plot did move very slowly and although we knew the person intimately who came before the character we would read about next, I’m not sure the connection was enough to sustain a reader who needed action.  Akua brought the action, so did H and Ness, but characters with gritty stories came at strange moments.  A reader on Twitter said he believed the book should have been split into three parts and not two.  He never responded to me when I asked where he would have broken the third part, but it did have me curious.  If we read this book and immediately have questions about structure, does that mean that Gyasi didn’t perfect her rhythm here?

5e0190c717c99df3c8a4b610e72b19c1I’m not sure how I feel. This multigenerational history of the world through the eyes of African American families moved me almost to tears at times, but there were other times when the characters just weren’t real enough for me, and these moments alternated regularly.  The raw moments, in Ghana, Willie in Harlem, H imprisoned and sold into mining, and “the Crazy Woman” all made for characters that “lived inside me” as Marjorie learns from her teacher in one of the final chapters.  But other characters didn’t come alive until I knew what they bred or brought into the world in later chapters. I almost needed their children to open my heart towards them.  That came a little frustrating when I just wanted to continue with one of the family lines, but had to read the alternating. I also had to look at the family tree a lot, which made reading on a Kindle difficult.

(Still, thank you so much for the arc, Alfred A. Knopf).

I do understand that to span 300 years in 300 pages is not an easy task, and there’s very few moments to take a breath, but I still sit here not one hundred percent sold. One of the things I did love was all the beautiful, beautiful language moments.

“That night, lying next to Edward in his room, Yaw listened as his best friend told him that he had explained to the girl that you could not inherit a scar. Now, nearing his fiftieth birthday, Yaw no longer knew if he believed this was true.”

And all of the commentary on society that was subtle but powerful:

“The need to call this thing “good” and this thing “bad,” this thing “white” and this thing “black,” was an impulse that Effie did not understand.  In her village, everything was everything.  Everything bore the weight of everything else.”

“That I should live to hear my own daughter speak like this.  You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you.  Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”

“This is the problem of history.  We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves.  We must rely upon the words of others.”

“Forgiveness was an act done after the fact, a piece of the bad deed’s future.  And, if you point the people’s eye to the future, they might not see what is being done to hurt them in the present.”

And my personal favorite:

“She stopped walking.  For all they knew, they were standing on top of what used to be a coal mine, a grave for all the black convicts who had been conscripted to work there.  It was one thing to research something, another thing entirely to have lived it.  To have felt it.  How could he explain to Marjorie that what he wanted to capture with his project was the feeling of time, of having been a part of something that stretched so far back, was so impossibly large, that it was easy to forget that she, and he, and everyone else, existed in it, not apart of it, but inside of it.”

I feel like I’ve been a little hard on this book because it is truly a literary first for me.  I recommend it to everyone who needs diverse literature, who wants to support a debut author, and who is interested in structuring writing in new and profound ways for their readers.

The List: Bookish Edition

If you’ve been following for a while you know that every year I do a Bookish Christmas List.  This year, I’m a tad late, but for all of your procrastinating shoppers, I have the list for all the book lovers, cat ladies, school teachers, and hipsters in your life.

For the Gilmore Girl in all of us:

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  1. “Gilmore Girls Helvetica” T-Shirt (multiple colors) | $31.95 @ Red Bubble
  2. “Mama Kim” Sticker | $2.40 (buy 6, get 50% off) @ Red Bubble
  3. Rory Enamel Lapel Pin | $13.00 @sweetandlovely
  4. Luke’s Mug Vinyl Logo Decal | $18.00 @ The Party Palette
  5. The Rory Reading List | $19.47 @ Neighbourly Love

For those Witty (W)itches in Our Life:

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  1. Okay Ladies, Now Let’s Get Information T-Shirt (multiple colors) | $27.65 @ Red Bubble
  2. Be Pretty Driftwood | $34.00 @ Peacelovedriftwood  on Etsy
  3. Ceramic Coffee Mug with Quote | $13.95+ @ Vitazi Designs on Etsy
  4. Olde Book Messenger Bag | $34.99 @ Think Geek
  5. Olde Book Pillow Cases | $14.99 @ Think Geek
  6. Banned Book Match Set | $8 @ Tiger Tree (How very Fahrenheit 451 of them, har har).
  7. Nancy Drew Pillows (these are my fav) | $24 @ The Sleuth Shop
  8. Internet Grammar Is Ruining Everything | $16+ @ Kathy Weller Art on Etsy
  9. Bibliophile Girl Scout Patch | $7 @ Storied Threads on Etsy

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  1. Lit Cap | $2.40 @ Red Bubble
  2. 52 Lists for Happiness | $16.99 @ Modclot
  3. Narnia Coloring Book | $15.99 @ Think Geek
  4. Disney Princesses: a Magical Pop-Up World | $65 @ Amazon by Matthew Reinhart
  5. Diagonal Alley Coat | $139.99 @ Modcloth

For the Editor in All of Us (that we want to murder):

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  1. Talks with the Editor Letterpress | $15 @ RD1Vintage on Etsy
  2. Books & Eyeglasses Earrings | $20 @ Uncommon Goods
  3. Whom T-Shirt | $25 @ GrammaticalArt on Etsy
  4. Seven Year Pen | $8.95 @ Seltzer Goods (they even have one dedicated to cat ladies.  CALLING ALL OF YOUUUUUU).
  5. Vintage Oak Desk Set | $32 @ InglenookMarket on Etsy
  6. Hand Engraved Compass Necklaces | $140 @ Uncommon Goods

Feministing:

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  1. Feminist Enamel Pin | $10 @ Stationerybicycles on Etsy
  2. Working Women: The New Pinup Collection | $12.95 @ Chronicle Books
  3. Shattered Glass Ceiling Necklace | $68 @ Uncommon Goods
  4. Parks & Rec Pawnee Poste | $11.99+ @ Genuine Design Co on Etsy
  5. The Future is Female T-Shirt | $14.90+ @ DesignDepot123
  6. Frida Kahlo Paper Dolls | $9.95 @ Chronicle Books

Teachers of all Kinds:

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  1. Staple Free Staplers | $16 (set of two) @ Uncommon Goods
  2. Scratch Map | $26-$40 @ Uncommon Goods
  3. Blue Book Personalized Pillow | $36 @ Uncommon Goods
  4. Microbiology Wax Seal | $29.95 @ CognitiveSurplus on Etsy
  5. Sometimes I Go Off on a Tangent T-Shirt | $25+ @Boredwalk on Etsy
  6. Moon Phases Notebook | $5.14 @Newtonandtheapple on Etsy

And Dudes:

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  1. Tesla Circuit Building Kit | $100 @ Uncommon Goods
  2. 3d Printed Bowtie | $32.70 @ 3different on Etsy
  3. Iron Coin of the Faceless Man | $14 @ ShirePostMint on Etsy
  4. The Hydra Smart Bottle | $59.99 @ Think Geek
  5. Build on Brick Mug | $2.99-11.99 @ Think Geek
  6. Medieval Knight Hoodie | $49.99 @ Think Geek

I know it’s pretty close to Christmas and you’ll need expedited shipping.  I hope I made it a little easier on ya for finding your bibliopiles the best presents.