I read this a few weeks ago, and it's sticking with me. I think about the characters often, and I really wish I'd have read it with a group so I could refer to it and not get weird faces pulled in return. Brit Bennett must be a very wise old soul in a young woman's body. (She was apparently 25 when this was written.)
The Mothers are the old church ladies in a California community. The action revolves around the church, specifically one family in the church. But while it's based in the church, this is a very secular novel without any religious zealotry directed toward the reader. (Some zealotry gets directed toward characters.) The Mothers represent missing mothers, mothers who can't fulfill their duties, mothers who are actually fathers, and many other mother figures in today's world.
It's a quiet story about loving people we aren't sure how to love, or how to show we love; about what happens when we can't, don't or won't talk our loved ones and instead keep secrets. It's a story about the fact that even when someone doesn't show you they love you in the way you might have hoped for or doesn't tell you everything, they may be the one to come through for you. Conversely, those who profess love may not be there when things get tough. It's about family and the ache that comes from missing family. It's an excellent story. Read it if you haven't.
I learned a lot from this book. My cartoonish visions of North Korea become less of a caricature with every good new information source, but I'm seeking these things out. It's way too easy in the US to see the DPRK in a two-dimensional way -- much like we saw the USSR during the Cold War, but with even less information. So I'm glad for anything that can give me more information about the North Korean people and the country. For instance, the fish is apparently excellent!
This is an incredibly interesting memoir told in the most bland way possible. I really wanted to love it, and I'm quite impressed with this woman and her family. I don't know whether it was the translation or the writing itself, but the writing could not have been more dull. It's a real shame, since the story could have been thrilling. Perhaps with a helpful co-writer, this would have made a bigger impression.
It feels a bit like the author wanted to please everyone. She works hard not to offend, so every negative comment is offset by a positive partner. "America seems X, but I love Y about America." The only thing that doesn't get this overly level-headed treatment is Kim Jong-un and family. I wondered from time to time if even that was done to please her readers. (I doubt they're handing out copies in the DPRK.) It was clear she tried not to make this book political, but how can you write about an "escape" from your home country without it being somewhat political.
One thing that caught my interest is how many successful escapes there are from North Korea. This isn't expanded on in any way, and it's hard to get an actual "count" since many people stay in China illegally (and dangerously, as Eunsun Kim's story portrays.) I did some interweb searching afterward and apparently the defectors who make it to South Korea (the most common place to head) are usually young women much like Eunsun Kim, so reading her story is a good example of the dangers and perils involved in getting out of the DPRK and eventually safety in another country.
AR: 8.5 Grade
Summary: The book Anne Frank: A Hidden Life is all about what Anne Frank and her close ones went through, as the Holocaust was in effect. This book goes into extreme detail. The reader is able to catch the feelings that Anne Frank had, while writing her diary.
Idea: This would be a great book to cover, while teaching the topic on the Holocaust. This is also a great way to intertwine reading into social studies. I would most definitely use this book for upper grades, most likely 6th. I feel like the reading level and content is most appropiate here. For my lower level students, I can always fit this book into where I would meet their needs. This way, they would not miss out on the opportunity of experiencing the perspective of someone who has actually expericienced every bit of the Holocaust.
I had hoped to be absolutely knocked out of my socks by the essays in this volume but it fell quite a bit short of the mark. The Little Virtues by Natalia Ginzburg was listed in a footnote of a book that I read last year (I think it was Wild Things but I'm honestly not sure) and it piqued my interest because it was listed as a resource for children's education. Ginzburg writes about her childhood in Italy (this is a translation) and the lessons which she learned from the ups and downs of her life there. It was a tumultuous life too. Organized in a series of short essays, different points in the author's life are described and used to illumine various life lessons. She covers just about everything from family dynamics, adolescent friendships, first love, and (what I was there for) the education of children. One of the major issues I had with this book was that education seemed almost like an afterthought even though the title was crafted from this section. I found the overall collection mediocre at best and not at all mindbogglingly profound as the footnote of the other book (and the online reviews) had led me to believe . In fact, only some of the points were even remotely accessible while the majority were nearly indecipherable. It read more as a series of diary entries than anything approaching academic. 5/10 from a severely disappointed nerd.
What's Up Next: The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke
What I'm Currently Reading: I've Got This Round: More Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart