Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me by Sarah Leavitt
(Skyhorse, 2012, 127 pages)
When I first opened the book and saw the very simplistic drawings, I was afraid that I would be let down by this story. I decided to read it at a slow pace and really study the pictures. I was in awe of how much raw emotion could be shown in the simple black and white drawings.
I applaud Sarah Leavitt for having the courage to write something so incredibly personal. It had to be an incredible undertaking to be able to open up and tell her life’s story of those few short years after her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She did not live close to her parents and she goes into so much detail about how she handled the stress of staying in touch and the traveling back and forth. Each family member is clearly presented along with the relationships she has with her aunts, sister, dad, and especially her mother. It is very inspiring to see a family through the eyes of the daughter (who is going through some extremely tough situations); for them to know that it’s okay to be able to laugh, get angry, cry, but above all else, love unconditionally.
Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh
(Penguin, 2017, 294 pages)
I was fortunate to see David Sedaris give a reading recently and one of the things he regularly does when he “performs” is highlight an author whose work he is enjoying. He did a spotlight on Homesick for Another World and the way he talked about it will undoubtedly lend itself to a boost in sales, especially for the audiobook (which he raved about). My reading of the stories was basically all dark, but Sedaris talked about the humor in the darkness and I honestly didn’t pick up on that while I was reading. When HE read a passage, however, you couldn’t help but laugh… I might need to revisit the stories with that type of reading in mind.
A talented writer, if you’re looking for a dark collection of short stories, Moshfegh delivers. I’m actually interested in reading her novel, Eileen, which was nominated for a number of awards when it was published. We’ll see when that moves up on my “to-read” list 🙂
Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
(Harper, 2016, 356 pages)
This was the final selection for the spring 2018 Between the Covers book club. Girls on Fire is set in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1990s; this is at a time when grunge is coming on the scene and the idea that kids are practicing Satanism is scaring parents everywhere. When a local teen is found dead in the woods this only leads parents to worry more about their kids. Hannah exists on the periphery of this apparent suicide. She knew the guy, but they didn’t really run in the same circles. What his death does lead her to is a friendship with Lacey. Lacey is the new girl at school who seems to exist in her own world; not caring what anyone else thinks.
As Lacey and Hannah grow closer we learn more about what happened in the woods. We also see Hannah distance herself from the quiet “oatmeal” life she had been living. With Lacey it’s like she can be a new person and operate more freely in the world. But with this freedom comes rebellion and unexpected jealousy. Not everyone is happy that Lacey and Hannah have found each other and secrets end up being divulged in ways no one could have expected.
Girls on Fire was most definitely a compelling read. Wasserman keeps you guessing where the book is going to go up to the very end. I knew it was going to be a dark read but I was surprised at how much it got into my head. I needed a literary palate cleanser after finishing this one. Graphic novels and romance quickly found their way to my nightstand. That being said, in spite of the darkness I enjoyed Wasserman’s literary talents.
The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It
by Neal Bascomb
(Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004, 322 pages)
Three athletes, three countries: thrilling.
Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials by Malcolm Harris
(Little, Brown and Company, 2017, 261 pages)
Millennials examined: data-driven analysis.
A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution
by Jennifer A. Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017, 281 pages)
Ethical pondering of the CRISPR.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
(Hachette Books, 2016, 260 pages)
This is the second title up for discussion by the SCC Between the Covers book club. Prior to picking this up I was familiar with Lindy West thanks to her Op-Ed pieces in the New York Times as well as the work she did prior to that on Jezebel. I initially approached this book as a collection of essays but had to recalibrate when I came to the realization it was a memoir. That helped explain why it seemed like the book progressively got darker. Granted, I laughed throughout as I was reading, but there were some sections that were significantly more humorous than others.
West covers a lot of ground in this book. It’s more than just a memoir; it talks about body image, rape culture, relationships, loss, the world of comedy, online trolling… and she does it all in a way that makes the heaviness of the subject matter seem almost “bearable.” While I was reading I found myself comparing her work to some of Roxane Gay’s essays that touch on similar issues and it was interesting to think of how their tones come across differently.
I’m glad this was our March selection for book club and I’m glad it got me to read more of Lindy West’s work (specifically her writing in The Guardian). If you want to hear more I guess you should come to the book club discussion on 3/28! 😉
Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
(Liveright Publishing, 2017, 115 pages)
Despite the amazing reviews this book was getting, I found Mary Beard intimidating as an author. I was scared her work would be too academic and “high-minded” for me given how little I know about the Greco-Roman world (Beard is a well-known Classicist). When I saw my library’s copy of Women & Power I couldn’t resist checking it out and seeing if I could handle it… To my pleasant surprise, I could! This was much more readable than I’d thought it would be. I psyched myself out based on the author’s biography. Sure, you have to pay attention to what you’re reading – she packs a lot of punch in this slim volume – but this is accessible to the non-academic. Plus, there are pictures throughout 🙂
Hailed as a “feminist classic” already, Beard looks back at the history of misogyny and how women have been “put in their place” for ages. Her first essay addresses the silencing of women and her second looks at the relationship between women and power. We’ve been conditioned throughout history to determine who “deserves” a voice and who should have power based on a male lens. We’ve been guided by a history that prized men and devalued women. It’s time to acknowledge that and redefine how we interpret what power looks like.
I was surprised at what a pleasurable reading experience I had with this title; especially given the subject matter. Beard’s writing style was accessible and has me eager to see some of her earlier work.
If you’re intimidated by this book but keep hearing about it, pick it up! If you enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists this should also find a place on your to-read pile.
The Flintstones, Vol. 1 by Mark Russell; illustrated by Steve Pugh
(DC Comics, 2017, 168 pages)
One of my favorite co-workers, Kelly M, convinced me to pick up this graphic novel. I’d been hearing about it off and on but I wouldn’t necessarily have gone out of my way to pick it up for myself. Then Kelly pitched it and I figured I’d give it a shot.
This satirical interpretation of The Flintstones was entertaining and hit on a lot of issues you wouldn’t anticipate finding in a graphic novel about this classic t.v. show. You can check out a more in-depth review on Slate. Just know that I plan on seeing where they take the rest of the series 🙂 This was a quick read with surprising depth.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
(Riverhead Books, 2016, 278 pages)
I decided to listen to the audio of this book and I am so glad I did. The talented narrator was able to use different voices to portray the different characters. She really brought the story to life. When I first started listening I was worried that it would be a story that would not hold my attention, but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it drew me in.
This novel touches on aspects of life that I think many people can relate; the longing for close friendships, a parents’ love, trying to find a place in this world, and even sometimes having to make decisions that could possibly have a lifelong effect on you and/or your loved ones. Bennett writes this story beautifully. She is a great new voice with a compelling debut novel. Definitely an author to keep an eye on.