Friday, June 15, 2018

January 2018 Reads and Reviews

This was my first read of 2018!  This is one that has been staring at me from the library shelf.  But lately, but "thing" has been audiobooks through the library.  When I saw that it was available through my digital library, I checked it out right away.

I think this book is meant for younger readers, but I honestly didn't care.  It just didn't make a difference.  I find books surrounding the topic of grief fascinating just because grief can look like so many different things.  It's kind of a strange thing to find fascinating, but if I'm being honest, ever since my Uncle Mark passed away several years ago, I've had this silent search for reads related to mourning, since my mourning period in that instance did not feel normal in the least.  And the relationship between Jamie and his sister is supposed to be much closer and yet there is this dissonance after her death that I just find so interesting.

I really appreciated Jamie's navigation through a family's grief of a family member.  Their group grief was another interesting thing because, for the longest time, they acted as though Jamie's sister was still alive.  For me, that was different and uncomfortable enough experience that I definitely sided with Jamie whenever there was a fight about speaking about Rose like she wasn't there.  It didn't feel like a healthy coping mechanism, but I recognize that people respond to a death, particularly a death that was close to them, in numerous ways.  So I guess this was a reminder to me that grieving takes time and it's not going to look the same from death to death.  And generally speaking, that's okay.

I give 'My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece':

If I'm honest, this book didn't really do it for me.  I was listening to this book on audiobook (my home county library has a really great digital collection, so I'm fortunate that I don't even have to go to the library to check out audiobooks!).  I liked the letter form and I appreciated that the mother showed she was there, but even while I was listening, I kept coming in and out of interest.  One might argue that that would be a good time to pause the audiobook and come back to it when I'm ready to pay attention.  If you think that, that would have been smart, but that's not what I did.  As a result, I was having a hard time figuring out why this mother would slap her daughter, which is part of the basic premise of the story.

I did appreciate the telling of what it was like to live during the civil rights movement in a more conservative home and how it's important to stand up for what you know is right and just.  That much came through to me.  But... yeah, listening to this book just fell completely flat for me.  And now that I'm writing this review months after I actually listened to this book (again, this may be enough downfall for me), I think it's telling that there's not really much that I held on too long after reading this.

Ultimately, I think this is fine if you're looking for a short read but look for something else if you're looking for a more profound read that will stick with you for a while.

I give 'Letter to my Daughter':


This book was much more up my alley.  I'm one of those people who likes to read about disorders.  Admittedly, I thought this book was about an eating disorder which is what drew me in (I know, that sounds so terrible... I genuinely do find them interesting even though they're traumatic and heartbreaking).  But this book was different and it got my attention.

Instead, this is a book about a girl named Ever who is overweight and goes through a process where her stomach is made smaller which will help her lose weight.  I think part of the reason why I latched on is that I knew someone who went through this procedure and so I understood, on a very basic level, how this was supposed to work and what the results could be after a while.  I think the author also went through this procedure and so she's writing from a place of knowledge and experience, which I was nervous about.  I think if anyone else had written about Ever's weight loss surgery, it would have come off as preachy or... I guess as giving this impression that you have to be a smaller size at all costs, even if that means going under the knife.

Skinny, the voice in Ever's head was also what caught my attention.  I think it did a nice job (for lack of a better word) of illustrating what goes through the heads of those who don't feel comfortable in their bodies, no matter what their actual size is, whether they have a diagnosed eating disorder or not.

I don't think I will buy this book to sit on my shelf, but I would consider making it available to my students in my classroom.  That being said, I'm glad that I read this book.

I give 'Skinny':

This is another read that has been sitting on my shelf shouting "Read me!  Read me!"  And I've been getting the same message from tons of other people who have read this too.

I didn't realize upon cracking the spine on this one that this is a book of narrative poetry.  That piqued my interest immediately.  I liked narrative poetry before, but this year my love of this style of story-telling has really taken off (I'm writing this long after January).  I liked hearing about the difference between living with her grandparents and her mother in two drastically different places, but it was also interesting to have a direct insight into how racism and a racist society affects people.  One of the parts that really stood out to me as I was just getting into this book was one of the times Jacqueline and her family were returning to South Carolina and they could feel the tension of crossing over the border into a place that they thought of as home but also knew they weren't accepted there.  And no one needed to say or do anything at that exact moment, but it was still something that they felt because her family knew what was coming.  I've never had to experience that.  I can go where I please, generally speaking, and I don't have to fear how other people will treat me or perceive me.  That's something I take for granted.

This was an eye-opening read.  I give 'Brown Girl Dreaming':

This is a read I've heard a ton about for years and once I realized that my public library had an audiobook available online, I decided to take a listen.  Audiobooks have been a life-saver this year and in previous years.

Thinking about this story in broader terms, there was a lot going for this book.  I don't know if I've read about someone living in an abusive living situation or someone who is on the outside looking in.  I felt drawn in out of curiosity and because I wanted to understand Eleanor.  I think she's a great character and I wanted to know more about her.  I also grew to like Park, although it took a little bit of time for me.

I didn't appreciate the racist "jokes" that this book contained, even if was meant to be banter between teenage boys.  I can't think of a situation where it's ever okay to joke like that and mess with people's identities in that way.  I'm disappointed that the author decided to include them when they could have easily been avoided altogether.  Honestly, this tainted my reading experience very early on and I wasn't sure that I was going to finish this book because I couldn't get over this piece.

By the end of the book, I did like this story.  It was a little predictable by the end, but I didn't mind too much because I could feel the loose ends in the story being tied up and I appreciated that.  I think once I finished listening to the audiobook I took the physical book that was sitting on my shelf and brought it to my classroom.  I teach 9th grade and this is more their speed rather than mine (even though I love reading YA and will likely not stop anytime soon).

I give 'Eleanor & Park':

I wish I had found this book several years ago.  Lately, I've been feeling like everything I've been reading (maybe not so much in books, but articles, etc.) has been difficult to wrap my head around and to get behind and support 100% the way I feel like I need to.  So this was a freeing read in a lot of ways.

Roxane Gay is a hilarious writer, but also incredibly insightful and thoughtful in her work.  I appreciated her sharing her intersectionality and bringing that into each of her essays.  She is relatable

I'll keep this review short because it's a book of essays and the topics are so varied as are my thoughts and feelings on each one.  Plus I think this book is worth reading a few times.  This is a book I will definitely keep on my shelf for year to come!

I give 'Bad Feminist':

Thanks for reading!  I'll be working on catching up on months of reviews, but they'll all be in this style, so your inbox won't be bombarded if you are subscribed via email.  Thanks for sticking with me!


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