Thursdays are for Wishing it was Friday

I did not realize my last blog post was so long ago and that brings me much sadness since it means I am behind in my reading! The end of the semester always has a knack of doing this, but I am looking forward to its end since it will mean I will have more time to do what I enjoy.

For today’s amusement, I have made a meme to speak of the wonders of our dear VP and his amazing way of dealing with the North Koreans.

 

Mike Pence

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Breaking Out of Bedlam

As many of you may be aware, the baby boomer generation is going to be the longest living generation as of yet. We are about to face the largest geriatric population we have ever had, and we do not have the necessary infrastructure in place to appropriately respond to this impending public health issue.

“Breaking Out of Bedlam” is very relevant to this broader discussion of living while aging. Too often, in this ableist society, we write people off the moment they become disabled in anyway. This happens across all age groups, but it disproportionately occurs with individuals who are older since aging does usually cause a loss of ease and function. And because of our ableism and ageism we have a tendency to think that once you are considered old, you can’t live life; you just live to live, until death comes knocking at your door.

“Breaking Out of Bedlam” is a perfect example of a book that challenges the notion that life stops once you are over the hill. Through the main character, you get to experience the renewal on life that occurs once you let go of the past.

Cora, the main character, is quite a treat and I appreciated the author’s ability to make her into a real person. Cora does not fit the stereotypical idea of what a “grandma” is. She is not sweet, she is not quiet, and she is not complacent. Although she has lost a lot of agency in her life, due to her addiction and health conditions, she musters the strength to regain this agency and demands (rather connives) to get what she wants.

I know that I do not regard my grandma to be a real person at times. What I mean by that is that I forget she has thoughts, feelings, wants, needs, desires, etc. outside of being my grandma. She has a past that I don’t know about, and can’t hope to ever understand, and she continues to have wants and needs as she grows older that should be respected.

With the destruction of the extended and nuclear family unit, the care of the elderly is being shifted to private and public entities, rather than the family unit. There is nothing necessarily wrong or right about this pattern, it is just where society seems to be heading. However, given that seems to be where the progression is, we need to re-conceptualize our ideas of the elderly. If we are not willing to take responsibility for them, and we leave them to fend for themselves (with some help), then we need to continue to allow them to make decisions for themselves.  Allow them to maintain some independence, agency, and self-dignity.

“Breaking Out of Bedlam” hits the nail on the head on the discourse of how do we care for our aging family members while respecting their wishes. I appreciated that this book was written from the perspective of Cora, instead of maybe her daughter or other children. The older generation still have a voice, and too often, their voice and perspective is forgotten. I believe that is a huge reflection of our culture’s tendency to want to hide the elderly away and forget about them.

The author’s inclusion of the dynamics of her relationship with her children added an additional dimension to the story, that I very much appreciated. Cora’s relationship with her children wasn’t perfect, which she was fully conscious of it. The insight provided as to why Cora was disconnected from her children helps the reader to sympathize with her. Too often mother’s are harshly judged on their capabilities at being a “good mother”. At the end of the day our mothers are just people too, with their own failings and shortcomings. Not every mom is going to be perfect, and some women will fit into the role better than others. Just like any job, some people have more of an aptitude for it than others, and there is nothing wrong with it. Cora is a perfect example of this. Does this mean she couldn’t have tried to be a better mom? Of course not. But I think it is important to understand why she couldn’t be the best mom she could be, and Leslie Larson does an amazing job of revealing the reasons to the reader.

Reading this was just generally fun, so if you are looking for a nice, easy read, I highly recommend. I also, obviously, appreciate that this book is a commentary on very relevant issues; not only impeding public health issues but interpersonal issues.

Book Bargains for April 11th

I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t bought books before today. I will have to be better about sharing when I buy specific books given that these book deals usually only last a day.

However, regardless of my ineptitude of sharing on a consistent basis, today there are some exciting book deals!

  • A Death in the Islands: The Unwritten Law and the Last Trial of Clarence Darrow
    • My dear friend will be going to graduate school in Hawaii so this was quite a timely book deal to appear. I know little of the tumultous history of Hawaii, but I hope that this book will help garner me some insight
  • Three Days in April
    • I had not bought a science fiction book in awhile and this one stood out to me purely because of the tagline of genetically engineered elites versus the unmodified masses. This is something, as someone who studies genetics, that gives me great cause for concern. Excited to see what sort of dystopia this will turn out to be.
  • Freakonomics
    • I actually had already purchased this book but given that it is a very popular book, I thought I would share this opportunity to purchase it for cheap!

Happy Reading!

 

A Long Way Gone

“A Long Way Gone” is actually the second book by Ishmael Beah that I have had the pleasure of reading. I initially fell upon his book “Radiance of Tomorrow” at the beginning of my book journey, and it definitely helped to set the tone in regards to my book choices.

Like many things in the news, boy soldiers was something I heard and read about, but it was such an abstract concept to me. It didn’t sound real, it didn’t sound possible. Furthermore, I lacked the necessary background knowledge on the context of these conflicts that were creating these boy soldiers.

It is a privilege to have been able to sit back and just hear about children being trained to be soldiers by not only rebel groups but the governing bodies of countries. It is a privilege to have been almost totally unaware and uneducated on the plight of people in countries like Sierra Leone. It is a privilege that I try to be aware of and recognize, and books like “A Long Way Gone” and “Radiance of Tomorrow” are instrumental in checking my privilege.

Through “A Long Way Gone”, Ishmael Beah takes boy soldiers out of the abstract and into the realm of reality, giving the term “boy solider” the human faces that have been wiped by such an umbrella term.

There was a bit of controversy regarding this book, primarily because people were skeptical to the actuality of this story. “A Long Way Gone” is intended to be a memoir of Ishmael Beah’s own journey as a child soldier, and there were supposedly conflicts in the timeline. However, regardless of whether or not this story was the true experience of Ishmael Beah, it cannot be denied that he shares with the world a story that must be exposed and shared. He also raises many ethical questions in regards to child soldiers and how they are dehumanized.

Ishmael takes you through the full scope of what being a child soldier entails, including the aftermath. More specifically the rehabilitation that is required and the re-entry into mainstream society.

A lot like “The Memory of Lost Skin”, this book challenged my perceptions of criminality and rehabilitation. With child soldiers, society condemns them and takes away their status as children because of the atrocities they are brainwashed to commit. Nevertheless, at the end of the day these children are STILL children, and if we are to ensure that they do not continue on a violent life course, we need to believe they can be rehabilitated and take the necessary measures to do so. The human brain is most plastic at younger ages, so making efforts to rehabilitate children will help to mitigate the creation of a whole generation of adults that perpetuate violence due to the residual effects of these conflicts.

This is definitely not an easy read, particularly when you realize these are real events that have occurred to thousands of boys in Sierra Leone and other countries. However, if you want to understand what it means to be a boy solider, this would be a good place to start. A good read to accompany “A Long Way Gone” is “What is the What” by Dave Eggers. Compliments well the story of “A Long Way Gone”, and gives a differing perspective, i.e. what happens if you are “fortunate” enough to escape being taken as a child solider. Keep in mind “What is the What” covers an entirely different topic (The Lost Boys of Sudan), but it is essential in helping one realize that all these things are connected and not just isolated events.

A 98 Windows Computer

Sometimes I feel that I resemble a 98 Windows computer for I take forever to start up in the mornings, particularly Sunday mornings. I don’t know what it is…Well actually I do… my bed is bae and it is so hard to be retched from it every morning during the weekdays. So during the weekends I spoil myself a little bit too much.

One day I’ll upgrade to be being a 2000 Windows computer.

Mondays Part 2

Seems that I really enjoy talking about Mondays. For today’s Monday discussion I thought it would be good to share that I missed my bus stop this morning. I was so zoned out, trying to think of all the things I needed to get done.

I think that missing one’s bus stop on a Monday is the pinnacle of what a Monday is.

People of the Book

There are always those books that have been on your wishlist for years but you couldn’t rationalize paying the full price for it; “People of the Book” was one of those books for me. I remember seeing this book in the bookstores back when I was in high school, and being totally drawn to the book art. I have to admit that I totally misinterpreted the cover. I most definitely thought it was making allusions to the the Egyptian God Horus. It is actually a wing of a moth, for those of you who are like me and the obvious alludes you.

As with many New York Times Bestsellers, I am skeptical of their true merit. Not necessarily because these books aren’t worthy of such titles, but rather because I always end up a little disappointed. I think I get disillusioned with what a “New York Times Bestseller” actually means in regards to the quality of the book. The “bestseller” title gives me high expectations for the book, but I should instead take it with a grain of salt given that it doesn’t necessarily correlate with how much I will enjoy the book.

“People of the Book”, as is apparent from the title, is the story of the multitude of people who were involved in the creation and/or safe-guarding of the famed Sarajevo  Haggadah [a Jewish text].

As was mentioned in a previous review, I absolutely love historical fiction pieces that intertwine multiple perspectives and storylines into the main plot. I believe that this sort of writing style for historical fiction is the most effective, as long as the transitions from past to present are done effectively. “People of the Book” did an excellent job with this and I genuinely enjoyed when the book had me time travel to unknown times and places. I would go so far as to say that I was even disappointed when the book took you back to the “present” main plot line. I, unfortunately, felt that the main plot line took away from the main focus of the book: the Haggadah. Particularly due to the love story between two of the main characters; it took away from the rest of the novel, and was unnecessary in the context of this story. The side stories, on the other hand, were perfection. My personal favorite was the last side-tale in which the artist behind the beautiful illuminations of the Haggadah was revealed.

The construction of the plot line was artfully done, and I felt that the author did an excellent job in transitioning between the main plot line and the side stories. I particularly appreciated the chronological order she chose to take with these side narratives.  In addition, Geraldine Brooks did not necessarily directly connect all the parts of the story together; she left a little mystery to it and gave just enough information for the reader to be able to discern it themselves.

I am glad that I was finally able to read this book, but in the realm of historical fiction novels, this was not one of my favorites. I just felt that the main plot line took away from the side narratives, and there were parts of the main storyline that seemed extraneous. However, the central themes of the book are important ones, and Geraldine Brooks highlights them at every occasion she gets. The main theme being that historical artifacts are central to our history and their importance should be recognized. Unlike us, they are able to survive time and tell their stories to future generations, if only we would listen.