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.
How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson
(Dial Books, 2014, 112 pages)
I grabbed How I Discovered Poetry after reading A Wreath for Emmett Till. I was hoping to get more insight into Nelson as a poet and this book seemed like it would offer that. The book is slim and is comprised of 50 poems. We see Nelson progress to young adulthood as the United States is gradually progressing toward racial “equality.”
Born in the 1950s Nelson was the daughter of a military man and her family moved often so not only did she see a lot of the United States, she was regularly the new girl and often one of very few black faces in her classrooms. This memoir in poetry was well done but I came to it expecting a little more depth and detail about her life. I’d eagerly read a prose memoir if she ever chose to write one. I think it’s clear I think she has a way with words 🙂
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson
(HMH Books for Young Readers, 2005, 48 pages)
This was the book that introduced me to the work of Marilyn Nelson. I was doing some research on the Coretta Scott King Awards and that is how I discovered this title which received an “Award for Author” Honor in 2006. Something about the way it was described compelled me to request it and I found it so incredibly heartbreaking and moving. The art that accompanies the piece was also very well done. At the end of the book there is an explanation of the poems (something Nelson does regularly and which is a feature I love) in addition to an explanation of the art.
This poem tells the story of Emmett Till’s murder while also reminding the reader of his humanity – it’s so easy to just hear the name, remember the story, and not think about him as a boy living in the world, as a son, as a man who didn’t get the chance to grow up. A Wreath for Emmett Till is aimed at younger readers and I think it powerfully combines history and poetry in a way that quickly captures the reader’s attention. This is one of those books that will find its way to my permanent book collection so I have it on hand when my daughter is old enough to read it. It’s hard to say I “enjoyed” it given the subject matter, but it was beautifully done and led me down a Marilyn Nelson path for which I am so grateful.
Portrait of a Nation: Men and Women Who Have Shaped America; 2nd edition
by the National Portrait Gallery
(Smithsonian Books, 2015, 312 pages)
After the unveiling of the Obama portraits I was inspired to learn more about the National Portrait Gallery and the works that are displayed there. Portrait of a Nation highlights men and women from many walks of life who have been influential in American life. This includes historical figures, presidents, performers, celebrities… Each portrait is partnered with a brief biographical blurb about the figure explaining what led them to be incorporated into the collection.
One of the main things I came away with when reading this book was a list of artists whose work I wanted to explore in greater depth and whose biographies piqued my interest. Even if you can’t make it to the National Portrait Gallery, it’s worthwhile to get a glimpse at some of the pieces in their collection.
Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
(Doubleday, 2009, 213 pages)
It used to be that the books most inclined to catch my eye were food-forward memoirs, but since becoming a mom those have been less on the forefront for me. I was strolling the aisles at my local public library not long ago and this collection of essays caught my eye. What Waldman hits on here is that regardless of how hyper-involved you are (or aren’t) as a parent, you will inevitably find a time when you see yourself as a “bad mother.” We’ve been conditioned by society to think nothing we do is ever really good enough – we’re keeping up with other mothers (and fathers) who only highlight the amazing things they do with/for their kids; keeping hidden the times they lock themselves in the bathroom with wine to cry it out.
This book offers humor, clarity, and the occasional moment that breaks your heart just a little. Whether you’re a new-ish mom or not, I think you can appreciate this collection of essays. I’ve been eager to read Waldman’s latest book, A Really Good Day, but I’m glad I got a better feel for her writing style thanks to this collection. If YOU are intrigued, check out this Modern Love piece that got her on a lot of people’s radars a little over a decade ago.
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.