brown girl dreaming

#blacklivesmatter is everywhere these days, and seemingly everyone has an opinion about it. And the fight is ugly. If you had asked me even 2 years ago if I thought we would be living in the 60s again, I would have laughed and thought you meant fashion or the MidCentury Mod furniture design craze.

But nothing about this is funny. People aren’t just getting emotionally wounded, people are dying. And they aren’t just being killed by Joe Blow off the street, but by those sworn to protect us. No matter what side of the fence you’re on…that’s a very scary thing to think about.

As a white woman in America, I mostly keep my mouth shut. While I support #blacklivesmatter, this isn’t my time to speak. My voice is not the one that needs to be heard.

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Adult Booklr chose Jacqueline Woodson’s brown girl dreaming for our August Book Club and it could not be more poignant. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it, since it is a story written in poems instead of prose, but it ended up being incredibly beautiful. It is also a perfect book to release right now. It not only speaks to Black Culture, but it did a lot of good to me as well.

The rest of my review is written, obviously, from a white woman’s perspective. I have not been in the fight. I cannot understand what you are going through. I would love to hear your feelings on this beautiful book, and I hope you will share them with me.

brown girl dreaming is essentially Woodson’s memoir, written from the viewpoint of her as a child in the 1960s. Through her vivid poetry, she talks about growing up in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York, and the differences between prejudices and struggles in each location. She also lays out the foundation of learning to write, her family life, and just growing up as a whole.

Even though the words were spoken with a child’s voice, the wisdom in them was so pronounced. This was a child who saw the world through her pencil–every moment was a word waiting to be written. Her composition notebook was her tool to sort, file, organize the world around her and try to make sense of everything that was happening. For the reader, that notebook, in turn, helps us understand what is happening in our similar world today.

I couldn’t relate to everything she wrote. I grew up in a privileged home, with both parents, in the same house until the end of high school. I very much understand what people mean when they talk about White Privilege now. I can’t say I have never struggled…they are just different struggles.

There were, however, some poems that made my heart expand until I thought it was going to explode. Some made me want to weep. The ones about reading and writing, especially–not knowing how to use those gifts as a kid but just knowing they were there and she had to use them somehow.

Then there were the poems that really spoke to me on a human level. Those shook me. They are the reason I’m writing the review this way–because I really wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it. One of the last poems in the book was this one, called “how to listen #10”:

 

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I think that is the most important thing as a white person in America right now, because we are privileged, whether we can see it or not. It’s a hard thing to admit sometimes–pride is a hard thing to let go of. But we just have to shut up and listen.

 

Buy Here:

WWW Wednesday 7/8/2015

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What are you currently reading?

Tess of d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

For Study:  The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

 

What did you just finish reading?

Empire of Sin by Gary Krist

Trollhunters by Guillermo del Torro

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Trust No One by Paul Cleave

Awake by Dan Chaon

 

The Story of My Life

When I was growing up, Helen Keller was known to me as a little girl who was dealt the worst card imaginable–no sight and no hearing. I had seen the movie at school and it’s brevity made me intensely grateful for my abilities. I’m sure we watched it in an effort to promote our knowledge of diversity–in a small school without a lot of variety, such help was important. But I don’t remember the movie showing much about Keller’s life other than her horrible fits and the triumphant moment at the water pump.

I can’t be alone in that impression, because today Helen Keller has become a horribly offensive meme. Even before memes were a thing, there were crude jokes about her disability–similar to Chuck Norris jokes only cruel instead of badass. The movie meant to show a girl’s victory instead highlighted too much of the bad, not enough of the good. And unfortunately, we are too immature to handle that kind of strength.

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Those were the thoughts I had when I picked up The Story of My Life. I wanted to know what actually happened to the little girl at the water pump. There had to of been more, or we wouldn’t still be talking about her.

She wrote the first of her memoirs at 21, while at college. College! School was hard enough for me with all of my faculties, I couldn’t imagine going with two major senses gone–and she does describe the struggles she had. She also goes into as much detail as she remembers of the time before Anne Sullivan arrives on scene (no mention of the water pump), and many other moments in her life.

Her writing is beautiful and insightful. She discusses the importance of education quite a bit, and the beauty of the world from her perspective. It’s a lovely little book–only 100 pages, plus another 100 pages of letters. Definitely worth the read for those interested in memoirs and history in general, or anyone wanting to get to know this amazing figure.

WWW Wednesday 7/1/2015

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What are you currently reading?

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

For Study:  The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

 

What did you just finish reading?

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Review up tomorrow)

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert

The Flying Circus by Susan Crandall

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Trust No One by Paul Cleave

Tess of the D’Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy

 

My Stroke of Insight

The brain fascinates me. Everybody’s neurons fire in such different ways and it’s amazing to me how it all works. When things go wrong, the brain reacts in some seriously interesting ways to compensate and heal.

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Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor was a successful neurological expert at Harvard, with a focus in schizophrenia (and some other things that were far above my intellectual level). One morning, she was getting ready for work when she was struck with crazy waves of euphoria and pain. Her left brain, where our analytical side (and thus, all her neurological study knowledge) resides, was screaming at her that something was wrong. Unfortunately, that side was quickly becoming overwhelmed with a hemorrhage due to stroke. And so, her right side was taking over to compensate. She could see the “bigger picture” but mostly she was overcome with an inner peace, hence the euphoria feeling.

Thankfully, she was able to get help, and thus began an 8 year period of recovery, from a unique perspective of someone who understood the brain. Taylor has written a book of her journey, My Stroke of Insight. She shares the terrifying moments of the day of her stroke, her struggle to regain control of her mind and body, and what life is like now. She also gives a lot of advice for caregivers of stroke patients, since most of us know someone who has had a stroke–but it’s so hard for us to reach them to know what they need or want.

My favorite part about this book is the last few chapters where she talks about how the right brain functions, and how it affected her perspective on life. Because the stroke was in her left side, she spent a great deal of time functioning in her right brain–the “big picture” side. This is the side that gives us meditation, creativity, beauty. She talks a great deal about finding your deep inner peace. For someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, these sections were extremely inspiring to me.

Dr. Bolte Taylor is an extremely courageous woman. I can’t imagine the amount of pain she’s gone through to get to where she is today. My Stroke of Insight is so inspiring, and I would recommend it to anyone who needs to be moved. This will be my meditation for the week, for sure.

She also gave a Ted Talk about her stroke, you can watch it HERE. It’s a really great addition to the book, hear her up close and personal about her experience through her stroke. It’s very emotional, and really shows just how strong and courageous she is.

Airplane Rides: Observations from Above

I have a fear of flying. More accurately, I have a fear of falling.

The take offs and descents, that’s what gets me. Oh, and turbulence. I HATE turbulence. That feeling that the plane is going to drop out of the air at any second…it is torture. Once we are at cruising altitude, I’m generally ok (You know…except for turbulence. Did I mention that I hate turbulence?) But until then, it is white knuckles and my husband telling me to breathe. Same on the way down. Oh god.

I’ve been travelling a lot more since meeting R. Until then, the last time I had flown was as a young teenager, before most of my anxieties kicked in. I was totally not prepared for how much flying would scare me that first time up. Now, at least I’m ready for it, I guess.

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Jake Alexander (a pseudonym) has written down 10 stories that were told to him by fellow frequent flyers. Interestingly enough, none were quite as panicked as I am about flying. I guess that would make for a less interesting story (I hate talking on planes). Anyway, somehow all 10 people seriously open up about some pretty real stuff.

This is one of those books that I’m juuuuuust not sure about. There’s some of the stories I liked. Pastor Daniel, flying to New York to take a break from his faith. The goth kid running away from home, so tough, but really she just wants to be loved by her parents.

However, most of the stories had a very real theme running through them. This is very much a MAN’S book. Ladies, don’t look for many feminist themes here. Jake hits on every single female he comes across (except maybe the underage goth girl), including two gay women who clearly have absolutely no interest in him. He is completely wasted nearly every single sentence of this book. Stoli on the rocks. Seriously. There’s only one reason to drink vodka straight. *shudder* He even allegedly convinces a women to masturbate under one of those blankets in a bag while he watches. Ew.

Oh, did I mention that he ALWAYS flies first class? As in, at one point he says he had not flown coach in 10 years. Snooty patooty. He’s also one of those people who bitches out the desk workers, and talks about them as if they were the dirt under their feet. The worker who is a “nineteen-year-old overweight, underpaid child” and “her fate had already been sealed by a fatherless child, an abusive parent, an absent education or maybe all of the above.” You know what, I am sure about this book. Very sure.

I think the moral of this book, if there is one hidden in the liquor and sex, is that slowly through this journey of constant drunken plane travel, he realizes that maybe there’s some greater life out there than this. He has this great epiphany, decides he’s going to change everything. And then at the end of the book (Yeah I know, SPOILER. Trust me, it’s huge, I promise.) he’s had a four day affair with an actress, and he makes her breakfast. WHOA. MINDBLOWING CHANGE. I AM SO IMPRESSED.

I feel like maybe I shouldn’t write reviews at ten o’clock at night. Or maybe I should, this is probably pretty entertaining. At least it is honest. I’ll never be anything but!

Guys, I didn’t love this book, obviously. It did make me outrageously thirsty. But, I’m a gin girl. Sorry Jake.

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. (This was technically from NetGalley, but it has been out since December 2014. I’m not sure if they consider this an ARC anymore or not.)

WWW Wednesday 6/10/2015

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What are you currently reading?

Hannibal by Thomas Harris (Reread since it is Fannibal Season!)

For Study:  The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

 

What did you just finish reading?

 

Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding (Review Tomorrow!)

Fanchon the Cricket by George Sand

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

Airplane Rides by Jake Alexander

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Desperation by Stephen King