Furiously Happy

This is definitely a one of a kind book. I have never read anything like this before and I enjoyed every second of it. I felt like I had found someone who FINALLY spoke the same mental language! The random ramblings, the random connections between things that normally aren’t connected, the random reactions, the extra random everything. Everything she said made so much sense to me and I found myself constantly thinking “oh wow, that’s totally me” or “I would say something like that”. I don’t find myself usually connecting with authors in such a personal way. Even with memoirs or other sorts of more personal writing, I’ve never encountered an author putting so much of their bare, unpolished soul out into the open.

The organization of the book is very atypical and seemingly disorganized, but as you are reading it, you pick up the flow of it. This book is a perfect example that books do not have to follow the classical outline. Writing doesn’t need to fall within certain parameters in order to be enjoyed and understood. Writing is flexible, dynamic, and not stringent in form; Jenny Lawson’s writing is a perfect example of an author breaking from the mold.

Although this book is geared towards an audience that may be experiencing similar mental health issues as the author, it is a book that should be read by all. Lawson’s very honest explanation of her own harrowing journey with learning to live with her diseases is very insightful. Most importantly, she normalizes them and makes you see that having a mental illness does not make you abnormal; just means sometimes you have less spoons than everyone else.

I promise that she also gives you the details into why there is raccoon on the cover of her book and you will not be disappointed.

A favorite quote from the book:

“Ground zero is where the normal people live their lives, but not us. We live in the negatives so often that we begin to understand that life when the sun shines should be lived full throttle, soaring. The invisible tether that binds the normal people on their steady course doesn’t hold us in the same way. Sometimes we walk in sunlight with everyone else. Sometimes we live underwater and fight and grow. And sometimes…sometimes we fly” (Lawson. 325).

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Kindred

I picked up this book on a Saturday evening, and by Sunday afternoon I had finished it. I kept telling myself I needed to put it down so I could accomplish other things, but it was not to be so.

Many of us had the opportunity to read this book in high school, I, (un)fortunately did not. However, it has been on my reading list ever since my sister read it when she was in high school.

I’ve read some of Octavia Butler’s other work, primarily her trilogy, Lilith’s Brood. She is typically a more science fiction writer, and a wonderful one at that. Nevertheless, her writing abilities are not bound by genre.

Kindred brings to perspective the reality that when you ask the question “If you could go back in time, what time period would you go to?”, you are not considering that for many people, primarily people of color, there is no time period in modern history (or even some cases ancient) in which it was a safe place to be a person of color. Time travel, were it to exist, would be reserved for the few, primarily white men.

Octavia does an amazing job of making this reality clear, particularly with her juxtaposition of Dana, an African-American woman, and her husband, Kevin, a white man. Both end up traveling back in time to antebellum Maryland, and both have very different experiences because of the color of their skin. It resonated with me that Octavia did not make this differential experience subtle; Dana says on more than one occasion how different her lived experience is than Kevin’s. Although this seems unnecessary, since it should be obvious to the reader that Dana’s skin color would dictate her treatment in an era with slavery, it is all the more powerful that you read Dana explicitly explaining to Kevin that they are no longer anywhere close to being on the same playing field.

Octavia also does a splendid job of describing the cognitive dissonance Dana experiences in relation to some of the slaves she ends up befriending, as she becomes a part of their world. It is easy to think, retrospectively, that had you been a slave yourself, you would have done everything in your power to be free. However, as you dive into “Kindred” you realize that it isn’t that simple, and that everything was constructed in such a way to ensure it was nearly impossible to escape. During the beginning portion of the book, Dana judges one of the slaves for she seems complacent about her fate as a slave.  But, as the story progresses, you see Dana’s knowledge of the era grow and thus her judgment is replaced by an understanding.

Definitely a must read for all, particularly for those of you hoping to continually expand your knowledge and understanding of the racist history of the U.S. Nothing like a well written historical fiction book to give you some perspective!

Book Bargains for March 23rd

HURRAY BOOKS!
I have not purchased books for almost three weeks n0w… Something was obviously very wrong; the March Haze as I like to call it!

In today’s wonderful book promotions:
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Every Tongue Got to Confess

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is a book that has been on my wishlist for awhile so it is a real treat to be able to finally purchase it! It was recommended to me by a friend of my sister’s who is a huge fan of John Greene and coming of age stories, so we shall see how this one pans out.

I am also pleased with my other two purchases. I had heard through news media outlets about the story that is told in “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”, so I look forward to enjoying a more narrative version of how this boy came to be able to transform his community through the power of wind.

Finally, “Every Tongue Got to Confess”, continues my main book goal of ensuring I continue to educate myself on communities of color and the vast richness they hold that is often times over looked.

It’s Fine

One days like this I always try to remind myself of my life motto: It’s fine. I developed this lovely motto during my last semester of my undergraduate career, when everything seemed to be falling apart. I would whisper this to myself incessantly as a mantra to ensure that I made it to the next day and to desensitize me to the various things that kept going wrong.

Definitely worked magic, and I was able to share this life motto during my commencement speech for the Foreign Language Department. Hopefully it was appreciated.

Mondays

Mondays always remind me how little I have my shit together and give me the opportunity to get into gear. Most importantly they inspire me to answer emails I haven’t answered for probably two weeks 🙂

Mondays also make me feel like taking the whole pot of coffee and drinking it directly from there instead of wasting time to actually pour myself a cup.

 

Enrique’s Journey

I have very mixed feelings about this book, primarily due to the stance the author takes as to why she is writing which she shares with her readers in the first chapter:

“…for Latina mothers coming to the United States, my hope is that they will understand the full consequences of leaving their children behind and make better-informed decisions. For in the end, these separations almost always end badly.”

This declaration of the purpose of her book weighs on me primarily given that she makes it sound like these women have agency. She is also quick to point the figure at them, rather than perhaps the multitude of external factors that push these women to have to make these difficult decisions. I do not believe there is choice when considering living in abject poverty or trying at a chance of a better life for your kids by going to the United States. Furthermore, she mentions at the beginning of her book how for Enrique’s mom it was a choice between killing herself and her kids or leaving her children and going to America. I do not feel like there is much choice in this situation.

Outside of the lack of objectivity, the author has created an amazing piece of journalism that is well worth reading. Her descriptions of the various parts of the journey were splendid and powerful, particularly when describing the level of poverty some of these people are living in. The details she went into when describing Enrique’s family and the people he encountered during his trip made them feel absolutely real; this is not negligible, reading about people will always be less powerful than meeting them but Sonia Nazario was able to capture some of these people’s essence. I was most struck by the kindness of some of these people towards the migrants. This world needs more people like the ones she described throwing food to migrants on top of the trains.

Finally, this caused me a little cognitive dissonance, given my disagreement with the purpose of the book, but Sonia still managed to weave into her work the various greater forces that play into this migration of children like Enrique. She spoke of the corruption in regards to government officials, police officers, etc. She described the prejudice that many Mexicans have against other Central Americans and South Americans; how their migration to the United States entails going through Mexico which bring problems for the local communities and so a negative attitude towards migrants is born. She dived into the illogical nature of this prejudice, given that many Mexicans find themselves also making this harrowing journey. She saved the more poignant parts for the end, where she describes the role the United States has played in this immigration.

I have great reservations about this book, but it is well worth the read, mainly because it is an excellent piece of journalism and gives insight into a journey that not many of us are aware of or will ever experience.

 

A New Angle to This Blog

I realized over the course of this Spring Break, that wasn’t really a Spring Break, that in order to stay true to my goal of keeping up with this blog, I need to allow myself more breathing room with it. At the end of the day, I like things to not be specific, and it doesn’t make sense for me to utilize this blog just for writing book reviews. It is the main purpose, but I also feel that with my tagline of “A graduate student, books, and her sanity”, it gives me ample excuses to write more than just that. Plus it adds a little more flavor and gives me so much more to write about 🙂