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text 2018-06-15 12:00
Friday Reads - June 15, 2018
Wishing Lake (A Finding Home Novel) - Regina Hart
One in a Million - Jill Shalvis
Cafe Au Lait - Liane Spicer
Welcome to Last Chance - Cathleen Armstrong
The Spirit of '76: From Politics to Technology, the Year America Went Rock & Roll (Kindle Single) - David Browne

Today is the first full day of summer vacation for my kids. Don't know how much reading I will be getting done while they are home, but I hope to finish Wishing Lake and at least get started on One in a Million this weekend. Keeping on the contemporary romance track, I hope to get Café Au Lait and Welcome to Last Chance done next week. On the non-fiction side, I want to get The Spirit of '76 read.

 

I am hoping that Storm Hector brings relief from my allergies. Happy reading!

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review 2018-06-14 18:45
BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD written and narrated by Trevor Noah
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood - Trevor Noah

 

BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD is hands-down, one of the most hilarious and informative audio books EVER. Seriously, it's outstanding.

 

I admit that I stopped watching THE DAILY SHOW after Jon Stewart left. I didn't know much about Trevor Noah other than the fact that he was a comedian before coming to that television show. I know a lot more now and I've started watching TDS again.

 

I remember hearing about Apartheid, but I didn't have a clear understanding as to how it affected people. Now, I understand a little better. This is Trevor's story about growing up in South Africa, his family-specifically his walking miracle of a mother, ("Jesus is my health insurance."), his father and his stepfather. It's about family life, church, music, and so much more. It's funny and entertaining, but it's also painfully honest at times, and it's those times that bring this book home. (I have never laughed at any story that involves the name Hitler. With this book and Trevor's Hitler story? I swear to all that's holy, I almost peed my pants.)

 

As the title suggests, this story only covers Trevor's time in South Africa. I can only hope that he will write another book about how his career as a comedian began and how he came to be hosting THE DAILY SHOW. Please, Mr. Noah, please write some more!

 

The audio is the only way to go with this book. Trevor Noah's accent and delivery make his special story even better. BORN A CRIME is worth your time. (Thanks to Ctgt, Petra and to Melissa for their reviews of this book, which you can find herehere, and here, respectively. 

 

My highest recommendation!

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review 2018-06-12 13:47
My one-hundred and fourth podcast is up!
 Margaret Cavendish: Gender, Science and Politics - Lisa M. Walters

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network! In it I interview Lisa Walters about her study of the thought of the 17th century writer and philosopher Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Enjoy!

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review 2018-06-04 15:08
Rereading Junot Díaz in light of recent events - the cycle of abuse harms us all
This Is How You Lose Her - Junot Díaz

Men may feel they get the upper hand by treating women poorly, but long before "me too" Yunior told us otherwise in these stories and in the novel.

 

Reread these after recent revelations by both Junot Díaz & women who were victimized by him. I was interested to see how this would affect the reading.

 

If you've missed the fireworks, a quick rundown:

  1. Junot Díaz publishes a personal essay in the New Yorker (The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma) revealing that he was the victim of repeated childhood sexual abuse by a man in his neighborhood, that he's paid dearly for it, can no longer write and has mistreated women tremendously while trying to hide behind a mask of machismo.
  2. Fairly quickly he is confronted by a number of women, notably women of color, other writers of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse.
  3. He decides (with the full blessing of the committee) not to take his place as Chair of the Pulitzer committee.
  4. Bookstores decide to remove his books from the shelves, others keep him on, nobody knows what the right thing to do is, and everyone picks a side.

 

All of this led to discussions - hell, thousands of discussions - around me, with women, with other survivors, with everyone but writers. I don't know any writers or I'm sure they'd have talked to me too. EVERYONE in the trauma community was afire with this discussion. Eventually some of us got around to his writing, and my response was that I hoped I'd still be able to read it, since I really have been a fan, and it made me sad to read in the NYer that he could no longer write. Then I grabbed these short stories off my shelf and read them. This is where I landed:

 

I loved these the first time I read them. I was just as uncomfortable with the over-flexing of what we now call toxic masculinity then as I was this time. In fact, I think my reaction was pretty much the same: the narrator's toxicity harms him and everyone else in his life, including his great love - but in the end, he's hurt himself badly (some great female writer might want to take the feminine perspective someday.) If only we could get people in real life to own up to how harmful toxic masculinity actually is for everyone.

 

The character in these stories is clear on how he's harmed himself, and while he may use bravado to try and mask his torment, it clearly doesn't work. Everything, including his body, breaks down.

 

Explanations are not Excuses. 

 

This is not to say that these fictional stories should be taken as an indicator of real life, but misogyny is a problem for everyone, and the pain in the voice of these stories spells that out. In fact, I think these stories might be used as an example of how badly misogynistic bullshit works out for everyone. Men may feel they get the upper hand by treating women poorly, but long before "me too" Yunior told us otherwise in these stories and in the novel.

 

As a person who has lived through some stuff, I'm glad to have read these stories the first time and again now. They are excellent, and the message is probably more clear now than it was the first time I read it, though my history hasn't changed at all. I still react badly to the mind games, abuses of power and name calling, AND I appreciate the stories. They have a moral dimension I now see even more clearly, and it's about far more than diversity or a "unique voice." Yunor spells out how harmful his misogynistic buddies and lifestyle are to both the women and the men in his life.

 

Sexual abuse begets pain, anger, confusion, acting out and abuse - sometimes even more sexual abuse. The issue is not on whose side will we fight - we should all be on the side of protecting children and getting everyone (including rapists and child molestors) help before this cycle begins in yet another person. Otherwise we are doomed to an assembly line of horrors. I'd bet that if you spoke to the man who abused Junot Díaz, he'd probably have some horror tales to share about his life. None of this excuses anyone. It does show how harmful it all is for everyone, be it the abused person, the perpetrator or the many people who have relationships with either of them through lifetimes. Abuse is poison. It harms souls. It murders a part of us that we can never regain.

 

When we have no tools for coping with this existential terroristic threat, we often cope in tremendously harmful ways - both to ourselves and those we love. Interpersonal relationships are forever changed, and we're all the victim - everyone in society.

 

This is why "rape culture" and "toxic masculinity" must end. It's killing as many men as it is women. It's a way of acting out, and it's unacceptable, if understandable. It will reach us all eventually, and nobody comes through unscathed.

 

As for the stories, the final line "sometimes a start is all we ever get" rings just as poignantly as it did before I knew so much about Junot Díaz.

 

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review 2018-06-03 16:20
The Displaced - Excellent Anthology of Refugee Writers
The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives - Aleksandar Hemon,Marina Lewycka,Ariel Dorfman,Viet Thanh Nguyen,Fatima Bhutto,David Bezmozgis,Porochista Khakpour,Vu Tran,Joseph Kertes,Kao Kalia Yang,Dina Nayeri,Maaza Mengiste,Reyna Grande,Novuyo Rosa Tshuma,Lev Golinkin,Joseph Azam,Thi Bui,Meron Hader

Viet Thanh Nguyen serves as editor for a short but impactful collection of essays about refugees and the refugee experience. I read a lot about immigration. I'm not entirely unaware that many of these stories are actually about refugees, but it's interesting that people often morph themselves into "immigrants," when in fact most of our families came from a refugee experience at some point. My father's family came in dribs and drabs to both coasts (and ended up with numerous spellings of our last name) because of the potato famine in Ireland. Nobody calls our family "refugees" but they were. It was just an easier time to be that when they showed up and pretended to have degrees in things like medicine... (true, but much too long a, story) So, given all of that, it's a willful political act for these writers to reclaim the identity of refugee -- especially given their successes and acceptance now in their new homes.

The tragedy is how these new homes forced people in a variety of ways to deny their original national identities. Some are more obvious than others, but all carry an almost unexplainable burden to the individuals, and I'm pretty sure to their new countries as well. 

Many, but not all, of the writers are now living in the US, and all of them are successful, educated, prize-winning, feted authors. Interesting how willing countries are to claim these refugees now that they have proven their worth. They've come from all over the world and they have personal experiences that frequently left me tearing up. The overall effect is rather devastating. I'm not going to review each piece, because they are all worth reading more than once.

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