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:

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People Who Eat Darkness

Note to Self:  Don’t read true crime on Mondays.

Mondays are hard enough to get through in one piece anyway, and then I added one of the darkest books in recent memory to my it. Good job, Haley. National Day of Laziness, what?

I could give you a trigger warning list, here, but it would be really really long. Suffice it to say–if you are easily triggered…don’t read this book. Seriously, just don’t.

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21 year old Lucie Blackman–tall, blonde, beautiful–travels to Japan with her best friend Louise. The girls are looking to earn quick, easy money to pay off debts, so they take jobs as foreign “hostesses”–a type of waitress that lure wealthy businessmen in to clubs. These clubs charge exorbitant fees by the hour (not to mention the hefty bottle fees too), so the more friendly and captivating a hostess is, the better her bonus. Sounds like great money to the two outgoing girls, but the trip turns dark when Lucie goes on a dohan (a sort of sponsored date with one of the clientele) and does not return.

Richard Lloyd Parry tells the story of Lucie’s terrifying case–the search conducted by her friend and family, the frustration with a foreign police force, a profile on the suspect, and the resulting trial.

I found People Who Eat Darkness intriguing. I had found this book a while back on a “If you like Hannibal” shelf, and while I don’t normally read true crime (mostly because it can sometimes read like a report instead of a story), this one was very well written. Parry keeps a plot-like story line going throughout, so it doesn’t get too mundane. As I mentioned at the beginning, though, it is EXTREMELY dark, and it never recovers. There is no happy ending. I had to take breaks every chapter to read brown girl dreaming just so it did not consume me.

My other major note on this book is that there does seem to be a pretty heavy bias against Japanese culture, and not just against the rapist. I am unsure if Parry is just trying to convey the disdain that the family had against the situation Lucie was in, or if it was an overall bias against the culture itself. But the whole time I was reading, I almost felt like there was a nose-crinkling subtext. To be fair, Lucie was not in a great neighborhood or situation, maybe that’s all it was. She herself called her living situation “The Shithole.” The narration just felt a little off to me, that’s all.

While I am critical of that last part, and while the book was very dark, it was a captivating story. I can’t call the people characters, because they are real. However, Parry has given us such a illuminating picture of each that we almost know them. Even some of the “good guys” aren’t all that good, but the bad guy, you will need a shower after meeting him. He positively drips with slime.

I will agree with the bookstore–if you are a fan of Hannibal, add this one to your list. Just proceed with caution. And maybe have something a little mellow standing by that you can easily pick up between chapters. Or maybe Tumblr. It’s easy to get caught up turning pages here, but you will need a break. Otherwise, the darkness might just eat you, instead.

 

Buy it Here:

1066: The Year of the Conquest

Another late afternoon post. Hopefully next week I’ll be back on track!

Today’s book was a quick read, but an intriguing one if you like history. I needed a simple palatte cleanser after Les Mis and had this one left over from my last batch of library books. It was only 200ish pages, so I figured it would do the trick.

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David Howarth’s 1066 is a short little history on the battle of the Anglo-Saxons vs the Normans. I hadn’t heard this story before–this portion of English history isn’t a piece I’ve studied–so it was interesting to me. Just another bit to file away in my mind palace.

I like Howarth’s writing. It’s informative, but engaging. He’s a great storyteller, which is something you don’t see often in nonfiction history. I’ll have to look up other things he’s written!

Short and sweet for today. Thanks for being patient with me this week! Have a great weekend everyone!

WWW Wednesday 7/22/2015

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What are you currently reading?

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

For Study:  The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

 

What did you just finish reading?

 

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare

Maggie by Stephen Crane

1066:  The Year of Conquest by David Howarth

Trees of Reverie July Readathon Wrap-Up

Phew! Another great Trees of Reverie Readathon has ended. This was a record one for me–I’ve never read this many pages during a readathon. All of the reviews should be posted for the finished books below.

Here’s my total pages:  2478!

Books finished:

Trust No One by Paul Cleave

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Green

Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz

The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

 

Books in Progress:

A Treasury of Poems by Sarah Anne Stuart

The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

The Demon-Haunted World

Reading nonfiction presents a challenge that I have not completely mastered yet. Most of the nonfiction I read is history, so it’s usually cut and dry, factual, without much opinion. Those I don’t have much trouble with. I either like them or I don’t.

But some nonfiction are written on a bias, or from a perspective I’ve never heard or thought of before, or just written by someone way smarter than I am.

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The Demon-Haunted World is all three of those things. Carl Sagan is one of the great scientists of our age, or at least one of the most famous. So he is definitely smarter than I am. His book is basically about skepticism vs theism/religion/people’s beliefs in what exists in our universe.

I say basically, because the perspective was a little hard for me to grasp at times. This book is probably a little over my education level, and out of my normal realm of interest. I think what he was getting at is that we as a society should strive to be educated as much as possible and base our thoughts and ideas in science and education, rather than blind faith. Which, as a book written by a scientist, makes sense.

It seemed to be a book written in response to the millions of fan letters he has received over the years. Much of it was tongue-in-cheek. He asks at one point for submissions for “Top 10 Questions to Ask an Alien.” He discusses a lot of topics–UFOs, ancient religions, Greek/Roman history, modern education, nuclear war, conspiracy theories.

It was an intriguing read, but again, I didn’t understand everything he said, nor did I agree with everything he said. However, he doesn’t really ask the reader to. All he wants is for you to ask questions, and look for the answers yourself. Don’t just take everything at face value. And that is the most important thing, in my opinion.

WWW Wednesday 7/15/2015

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WHOOPS! Almost forgot about this today!

 

What are you currently reading?

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

For Study:  The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

 

What did you just finish reading?

 

The Guilty One by Sophie Littlefield (Review up tomorrow)

Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare

Maggie by Stephen Crane