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review 2017-03-25 02:41
Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff - Michael Nesmith

Wow, this was an interesting book. I did not know a lot of things about Michael Nesmith, but I do now. I could amaze you with the trivia I learned, but you will just have to discover it for yourself.

Okay, okay, did you know that Davy Jones was on the Ed Sullivan show the same night as The Beatles were for the first time? He was starring in the play "Oliver" and was with some of his cast mates. Don't remember him being on the show? Seriously?

Michael Nesmith calls his book an autobiographical riff which is exactly how its written. I thought it was funny while reading the book that he sounded like an old musician. I don't really remember The Monkees being known for their musical abilities but apparently they had some. Well, at least Michael had some.

Thanks to Crown Publishing for approving my request to read this very interesting title and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2016-11-13 17:33
Book Review: Travels with my Father by Karen Jennings
Travels with My Father: An Autobiographical Novel - Karen Jennings Poignant and lyrical, TRAVELS WITH MY FATHER takes the reader on a meandering journey through past and present. I'm not overly fond of memoirs - usually finding them dry, dusty and too factual - but, through the lens of coming to terms with her grief at her father's dying, Jennings has woven a masterful record of life to which everyone can relate. Whether describing the small and personal details of her life (the "desperately ugly" ashtray she thought belonged to her grandfather) or minor details of her travels (the visit to a museum in India, filled with mouldy, stuffed animals - "a bat has fallen off its perch and has been put back so that it stands on its feet"), Jennings's writing is vivid and vibrant. It is also searingly, at times painfully, honest ("The Jenningses do not speak of things that are unpleasant or relate to emotion in any way"). She often mentions her struggle with depression; her disappointment in the smallness of her father's life as he got older. As one reads, her words wrench emotion from one - too often, this is deeply coloured with melancholy and a quiet despair. At one point, her father said to her "Oh, girl, why do you have make things so difficult?" There is no linear pattern to the stories and anecdotes filling the book. The reader is effortlessly carried along a stream-of-consciousness exploration of a period in the author's life starting with her father's death and ending with the scattering of some of his ashes in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. (A delightful scene near the end of the book, which reflects the end of mourning and the beginning of a new phase in her life). This adds to the sense of being personally, intimately involved in this journey of a daughter working through her grief at the loss of her very human, but much loved, father. There are no order to our memories, and TRAVELS WITH MY FATHER reflects that in its seemingly rambling (but exquisitely crafted) style. Whether it's a lesson on the history of the places she visits on her travels triggering a memory of her childhood, or the discovery of a new notebook of her father's triggering memories of her family history, or her new lover's bow legs reminding her of her father, Jennings's masterful control of her subject and her dramatic use of words creates a compulsive need to continue reading. Despite the ending, at that point when Jennings finds in her father's notes a reassurance of the very ordinariness of life that ties together all the threads of an ancestral line stretching both backwards into the past and forwards into the future to a time when she, too, will grow old and die - her acceptance of the cycle of life, in a way - when I finished reading, a darkness persisted, leaving me unsettled and edgy all day. In a way, my lingering sadness is a tribute to the high quality of Jennings's skill as a writer, but my more optimistic personality prefers to leave a book filled with a brighter sense of hope.
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review 2016-04-10 16:54
#CBR8 Book 36: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Ellen Forney,Sherman Alexie

Arnold "Junior" Spirit doesn't exactly have an easy time of it. Born poor and hydrocephalic, it's pretty much a miracle that he survived infancy. Suffering from stuttering, his over-large head, bad eyesight and frequent seizures, he's routinely picked on by both children and adults on the Spokane reservation, finding solace in basketball, his drawing and his best friend Rowdy. 

 

When Junior transfers away from the school on the reservation to get a chance at a real education, Rowdy feels deeply betrayed, like Junior's sold out his heritage and he loses the only friend he's ever had. If he thought he was an outcast on the reservation, being the only Native American in an all white high school, 22 miles from where he lives, Junior is in for a rude awakening. Stubborn and fiercely intelligent, he's still determined to prove to everyone that he can make it, without giving up his Native American roots in the process.

 

This book slayed me, as they say. I was a blubbering wreck from the second chapter, when Junior explains to the reader that the worst thing about being poor is that when your beloved dog, a stray mutt, gets sick and needs medical attention, there is absolutely nothing that can be done. Because I listened to this in audiobook, I was straight up sobbing on my way to the grocery store, which is really quite embarrassing. This book, which straight up broke my heart a little, also made me laugh a lot, so it's really not a complete sob-fest. It's a semi-autobiographical account of author Sherman Alexie's own life growing up on a reservation and deciding to go to an all white high school so he could gain enough credits to go to college.

 

For all that there are funny and uplifting passages, there is so much to feel outraged about too. Junior losing his dog because his family is too poor to take it to the vet. His father's alcoholism, his mother's crushed potential, his sister's depression. The fact that the books used to teach Junior in the reservation high school are the same ones his mother used thirty years earlier. The systematic abuse his friend Rowdy is victim to. The fact that most of the people in Junior's life are helpless and hopeless and their children will be as poor and as hopeless as them. So much grief, misery and death, caused by the continued oppression of the Native Americans. 

 

This is such an important book and it's so well written. It frequently appears on the banned books list in the US, probably because of the honest and open way it deals with teenage sexuality, poverty, alcoholism and drug abuse, bullying, inappropriate language relating to race, physical appearance, disability and sexual orientation. I think every teenager should be made to read this book and told how much truth there is behind the apparent fiction, so they realise just how privileged and lucky they are and can see just how it's possibly to remain strong and resilient in the face of so much adversity. 

 

Because I got this as an audio book, I was not able to look at all the illustrations that accompany the paperback version of the book. I plan to buy the paperback for just this reason, and I am seriously considering making this required reading for the 10th graders in my English class next year. It's certainly a much more important, interesting and engaging book than snooze-fest waste of space The Catcher in the Rye

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/04/cbr8-book-36-absolutely-true-diary-of.html
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review 2016-03-16 00:01
The Mothers - Rod Jones

An entire spectrum of sentiments and feelings can be associated with the word “mother.” One’s attempts at defining the term is strongly linked to one’s personal experiences, whether they be positive or negative. However by selecting the title, The Mothers, I would think that many readers would initially assume that the novel would describe a favorable position of motherhood…a kind of homage and celebration of a mother’s strength and fortitude in supporting her children’s wellbeing and welfare against any hardships that are faced. If by looking at the title alone and thinking that the novel might make a promising Mother’s Day gift, it might not invoke the positive reaction you were seeking.

 

The novel chronicles four generations of mothers, from World War I to the 1990s, all of whom eventually become part of an interconnected family. The author Rod Jones firmly entrenches his novel within a historical context. The four generations of women are set in a background of varying levels of political, social and environmental calm and upheaval. However, all of the women he describes are somehow emotionally distanced from these periods of change; their reactions to situations are remarkably similar despite the social differences occurring during their respective timelines. This similarity does a disservice to the stories of these women, who ultimately seem products of an older generation in regards to their relationships with their children and, more importantly, their men.

 

Despite the novel’s title, The Mothers strongly focuses on the women’s relationships with men, rather than their relationships with their children. At times, it almost feels as if the title The Mothers is a misnomer. In truth, the novel assumes the old-fashioned belief that children are better seen and not heard. At various points in the story, the reader can “see” the children out playing, attending school or going to work. Other times, the children are actually visually absent from the story because they haven’t yet been born. For the most part, the children are not involved in the active verbal conflicts associated with the four main female protagonists, which creates a noticeable distance between mother and child in all four sections of the novel.

 

Additionally, even though the author introduces some themes associated with these children, they are not fully realized over the course of the novel due to the story transitions. For example, two of the children who are introduced in the first section of the novel, essentially disappear in the other sections when the author shifts focus to new storylines. Though these children do make brief appearances in the later sections, the themes that were initially introduced, namely Teddy’s emotional reticence and growing sense of disappointment and loss are quietly forgotten.

 

There is minimal verbal interaction between mother and child across the novel; and at some points, the mothers seemingly want to distance themselves from addressing any potential conflict with their children. For these mothers, such crisis moments are best resolved by sending the child away, offering the child phenobarbitals, or potentially considering imposing a forced separation between herself and the child. Ultimately, it becomes apparent to the reader that it is not really the women’s role as a mother that drives their decision making, but it is the the male figures in their lives that truly guide the choices they make as mothers. 

 

The four mothers of this novel lack a strong, independent will, and are heavily dependent upon the assistance of men. When this dependence is severed, the women are cast adrift, either looking to the past to find grains of comfort, or to seek some other male replacement, whether consciously or unconsciously, to fill that empty void, rather than attempt a life of independence with their children. Such choices are made regardless of the relative danger and instability associated with making such a choice, both for themselves and for their children. 

 

The first mother to whom the reader is introduced actually describes her hesitance in wanting to accept charity, yet she does not actively consider looking for a job, even the most menial position. She ultimately elicits the help of two other men. The second mother is described as being rather childlike in demeanor, and is heavily dependent upon her husband for support and assistance. Arguably, it almost seems as if the male figure in this particular relationship assumes a mother bird-like protectiveness. At a later point in the novel when this woman becomes a widow, she is described as being “still stuck back in 1969, where the solid road of her family life had come to a sudden end.” In another section of the story, the empty void is so extreme that this mother resorts to turning Humphrey Bogart’s Charlie Allnut character in The African Queen into a god-like figure to whom she prays for assistance and strength. This woman eventually again relies on the advice and guidance of another man to determine the course of action she should take when provided with the opportunity of resuming a relationship with a lost child. The final mother figure to whom the reader is introduced is shockingly passive and submissive, which is a blatant contrast to the 1970s women’s liberation timeframe in which she is living. Her partner is emotionally abusive and distant, yet since he is the father of her unborn child, she cannot envision a life separate from his. All in all, the four stories that the author describes force the reader to question the degree of responsibility these women have in their role as mothers. 

 

In the book’s favor, Rod Jones’ novel does provide a distinctive voice for each of the mothers he describes. Each of the four sections employ a subtle technical change in style that is reflective of the character traits of the four mothers. The first section is a story that is plainly told, which reflects the dispassionate nature of the first mother he describes. The second section assumes a simple, unadorned way of writing. Description is minimal and lacks an imaginative maturity that is reflective of the mother he describes. It is rather difficult for the reader to learn much about this woman based upon what is described, other than this woman’s childhood fears, fears that she also extends to her understanding of others. The third section adopts a dreamlike stream of consciousness. Of the four sections, the author provides a tone that is arguably almost affectionate and sympathetic in its description. The situation in which this mother is placed is hopeless, yet it hints at a potential sense of healing that contrasts the growing sense of absurdity that follows her train of thoughts as her story progresses. The fourth section in contrast lacks a true sense of hopefulness, and is instead a study of negative contrasts and dichotomies. Despite this mother’s lack of advanced education, her story is replete with astute, intelligent commentary. However she seemingly fails to apply this intelligence to herself and her own situation. She remains blindingly optimistic despite the many warning signs that come her way.

 

When reflecting upon Rod Jones’ novel as a whole, his novel does have technical merits in its tone and section construction. However when the reader breaks down the stories he describes in their most basic form, the novel is essentially four retellings of the same tale: a woman who needs a male figure in her life to help balance her responsibilities and duties as a mother. The underlying message Jones leaves his readers is not entirely favorable; and with the knowledge that the novel is semi-autobiographical, one wonders what Jones is really trying to say here.

 

Copy provided by NetGalley

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photo 2016-03-07 13:38

Please don't :)

Source: myjetpack.tumblr.com/image/140626723170
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