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review 2017-06-15 20:38
Black White Jewish
Black White & Jewish - Rebecca Walker

Never before has a book so completely spoken to my heart. I originally found this last year when I was looking around for around for women's memoirs to be put into my Diverse Books Tag focused on that genre (a book with a biracial protagonist). I recommended it to my library but got quickly absorbed in a number of other books while I waited for it to be available or for the right time to pop up. At last, my library purchased it and I was the first one to get it when it came out.

I have to say that waiting for the right time worked out fantastically. Some books just seem to know when you need them. As I said, this one just spoke right to my heart. That's not to suggest that I "know" what it was like for Rebecca Walker to navigate her life or what it's like to be black and white and Jewish all at the same time. What I do know is that I am quite familiar with that sense of not quite belonging to anyone, but maybe belonging enough to be claimed here and there for this or that trait. I have drifted from one home to another within my family or neighborhood or group of friends and felt that change that Walker describes as "switching radio stations". I've felt the sting of being in one group while people denigrate the other part of you, the part that they don't claim, while they insist that it's not you but you know that it is, even if only in part. I've felt it on both sides of me.

We've lived vastly different lives in different times within this country and I couldn't possibly relate to all of Walker's experiences, but I had never known anyone to describe this being and not being so well, so beautifully. The idea of being a "movement baby" sounds terrifying, like for too much to live up to. Later, I found it far easier to relate to what happened when the ideas of the movement were gone and she was treated like her existence was half-oppressor and half-oppressed, when people asked her navigate those waters and explain what it felt like. I was never able to explain what it was like to be fragmented this way and now I have someone to turn to for that.

I loved Walker's style of writing and relating everything back to memory and the way that memory shifts, that way that it can be wrong and right at the same time and the way it shapes us and perceptions of us without ever asking for permission. I loved the poetic feel that accompanies most of the book. I peaked at some other reviews and it's not the kind of book that everyone loves, but I still find it an important book to read and discuss. Perhaps it would make a great book club memoir because it does bring in questions of race on several fronts and it could open conversations about sex in adolescence, the effect of divorce and/or neglect on a child's upbringing and other important issues that Walker goes through that still plague us.

The downside to that, of course, is that using the book that way invites criticism of Walker and her parents as people who were theoretically doing the best they could. I don't mean to sound like I doubt that anyone was doing their best but I also don't want to make it sound like I'm making assumptions about what could/should have been done. The point is simply that getting judgey about someone's life and story like this would miss the point of reading the book.

Despite what others might think, I found this book engaging, even at it's lowest moments. I appreciated the way it was a little episodic, moving through periods in her life and only stopping to fit in the moments that best sums up the time-frame for her rather than dwelling on incidentals. As mentioned above, what I loved the most was the way she relates what it is like to not fit succinctly into any single category of race, to be a part of something and not a part of it at the same time, close and yet removed from it. I have felt these things so many times in life when I am in Hispanic or not Hispanic depending on the way whoever I'm talking to feels about it and it rarely seems up to me to let them know who I am and how I fit into these categories and whether or not I even want to.

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review 2016-10-06 15:46
Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Pr... Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War - Leymah Gbowee,To Be Announced

This is not a call to action, as I had originally thought it was. It is a memoir of a life in successful activism. It recounts how humble beginnings could grow into far reaching accomplishments. It doesn't appear to pull any punches when it comes to the circumstances that this woman and many of the other people in her country were living in before the women decided that it was enough and organized their own, peaceful, action.

This is yet another example of how peace can be active and peaceful protest and actions can lead to far greater things than fighting. It's also honest about the aftermath of war, and this is an area that many people forget about. It's easy to say the war is over and we must bring our people home, but it's hard to realize that you are leaving a shattered generation who aren't familiar with things that are not violent. It mentions the ways that peace builders can further victimize the women of a post-war country and the ways that these countries must build much of their own peace. It's a long and hard road back to a feeling secure and building futures. I hope to one day see a sequel that recounts the ways that they fully recuperated and the things that they did. Unfortunately, I realize how unrealistic it is to think that this can happen any time soon. Wounds take far longer to heal than they take to create.

This is a powerful book. It definitely makes me feel like I can do far more than I've dreamed while contrasting with an overwhelming feelings that I will never do enough. Mentioning many of the sacrifices in her personal life, though, Gbowee makes it clear that it is a hard life to continue to choose. You have to decide everyday if what you are doing is worth the sacrifice of time with your own family. Hopefully they grow to appreciate what you've done for the bigger picture.

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review 2016-09-15 18:03
Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter by Carmen Aguirre
Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter - Carmen Aguirre

I think my favorite thing about this book is that Aguirre doesn't pull any punches. She describes the different fears that were a part of her life, the way people looked after beatings, and her belief in what she was doing. She relates what happened around her and what she did and that she wasn't just sitting on the sidelines and hoping that things would get better.

I appreciate that she just gives her opinion without trying to convince the reader of right and wrong. It isn't a plea or an argument and she doesn't justify what she was doing to the reader. She just tells you what it was and what she did on account of it. She also doesn't pretend to be perfect or brave all the time. Showing how hard something, especially something like revolution, is hard and it does everyone a disservice when we pretend it can happen in a day or night.

I listened to audiobook, and I loved both her writing style and that she narrated the book for herself. I loved the inclusion of the epilogue and that she relates what was happening in those countries during the publishing back to the resistance because progress doesn't happen in a vacuum. It was an interesting look into what was happening in South America in the late part of the twentieth century. It's definitely not one that we get in the US often.

I had originally found this book as part of the Diverse Books Tag that I did about memoirs (click here for mine). It was my book for "set in South America. Coincidentally, it's also my first review during Hispanic Heritage month!

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