Friday, November 17, 2017

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't): Making the Journey form "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough" by Brene Brown, Ph. D., LMSW

I've been intrigued with BrenĂ© Brown's work since I listened to her Ted Talk on Vulnerability. I finally got around to starting to read her books. I expected I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough" to be a reiteration of all the things I've heard her say in her talks and classes and in her interviews. It was that but it was also more. In fact, it was more than I expected or perhaps was ready for. I sat down intending to simply read the book and ended up deciding to take her advice and work through the exercises. I didn't always like the answers that arose for me, but it was worth the time it took. I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't) pushed me to examine my thoughts and my attitudes toward shame and blame and vulnerability and strength. I started the book thinking that I'd already done this work, so this would just be me learning more about the topic. Brown breaks down shame and connection in ways that make her points highly relatable and highly relevant. As a writer, I found Brown's research also provides insight into writing characters who are mired in shame and those who aren't.  I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't) is a book based on research but written for every human, but particularly women and girls, who have ever been shamed into silence or into roles they didn't want to live.

For more on my thoughts on shame, read my blog post Shame: An Old Foe Still in the Shadows.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Forgotten Reflections by Young Im-Lee

36395914The characters in Forgotten Reflections by Young Im-Lee took up residence in my imagination in a way that felt like I was living with them even when I wasn't reading. I walked the small village with Isuel and Jung-Soo. I felt the depths of the forest and the pain of war with Jung-Soo and Dae-Gun. I felt the fear and the confusion. I felt the excitement over both the little moments and the monumental moments shared. The heartache of betrayal and family secrets and the bravery of the villagers rang through the pages. Forgotten Reflections bridges the past and the present through the eyes of a granddaughter desperate to understand her grandmother and her family history. There's a thread of rebellion and strength that weaves through Forgotten Reflections demonstrating that human beings find a way to rise to the occasion when faced with dire circumstances. Mythology confronts reality while bravery and cowardice fight their own battle. Forgotten Reflections is a love story surrounded by a war story surrounded by a story of resilience and perseverance that touches the heart while provoking thought about the experiences we share and don't share as well as the roles we play as we traverse life...

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

No Acute Distress Poems by Jennifer Richter

No Acute Distress Poems by Jennifer Richter explores life, death, illness, self-autonomy, and family life in poems filled with raw honesty combined with both despair and hope. In explorations of how our bodies can both betray us and heal us, Richter demonstrates how intellectual knowledge sometimes struggles to reconcile with emotional connections. Richter's use of language is inventive and lyrical while remaining approachable and relatable. No Acute Distress feels at once highly personal and undeniably universal bringing the reader into Richter's life and her into the readers' life demonstrating how people's lives affect one another directly and indirectly.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Jubilee Year: An Erelong Novel by Gerard O'Neill

Jubilee Year (Erelong, #1)Jubilee Year: An Erelong Novel by Gerard O'Neill is the beginning of the end of the world as its inhabitants know it. O'Neill drops the reader into a world where the new normal makes little sense compared to what people remember. As disaster looms, the characters search for a way to survive. People fight for the life they remember even while being told to trust those in power.  Jubilee Year is a stark but entertaining novel that pulls the reader deeply into its characters' lives while also affording the reader enough distance to question the decisions, the motives, and the actions of the characters. O'Neill demonstrates the dangers of allowing too few people to hold the power over people's lives while at the same time leaving the reader to wonder how to best fight tyrannical forces that come from unexpected places by exposing that those in power appear to be someone or something else's puppets. Jubilee Year is a thought provoking, emotion wrenching novel that offers moments of hope in the midst of chaos, destruction, and a world that's lost its way and many of its resources.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

disinheritance poems by John Sibley Williams

I've heard John Sibley Williams read his poems at poetry reading a few times, and I've read his work before. I've always enjoyed Williams work, but disinheritance surprised me with the depth of emotion woven with intellect in poems that grieved out loud and unapologetically. Williams's grief travels from poem to poem taking the reader into a place both painful and hopeful. Disinheritance feels like the grief we try to disown whenever someone else feels uncomfortable with us feeling it, let alone expressing it. In this book of beautiful, heartfelt, touching poetry, Williams explores grief in a way that never forgets that some losses become a part of who we are as well as who we aren't.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore

Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore grabs the reader in an unrelenting grip of the consequences of choices Elsie makes. Self-destructive and searching for herself, Elsie constantly seeks out relationships that take her down dark paths and allow her to fall apart before abandoning a string of people in her life. Tennant-Moore write Elsie's self-destruction with a rawness that left me aching and identifying with the emotions even when I didn't identify with Elsie's actions. At times, I found Wreck and Order difficult to read because of the bluntness surrounding abuse and sexual trauma yet I couldn't stop. Even through my frustration with Elsie I wanted to convince her that eventually things get better. I saw in her a girl with too much and too little at the same time searching for something that would give her life meaning. Wreck and Order explores the addiction to drama that seems prevalent in modern society without apology or excuse.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Camanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Camanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne wasn't what I expected when I bought it though I'm not sure what I expected. Gwynne appears to try to tell the history fairly, but how fair can a story be when the documentation of the other side is often biased and the documentation on the other side is scarce? Gwynne certainly pulled me into this well written story with visceral details about the interactions between the Comanches and the settlers as well as the landscape. He has no qualms talking about the settlers taking the land, but like so many books written by oppressors seems to marvel that people will kill to keep the land they've inhabited for generations and will reject invaders telling them how to live their lives. Empire of the Summer Moon paints a picture that feeds into stereotypes about Indigenous Peoples and relies heavily on documentation by the "white man" while excusing this by saying the Comanches didn't keep records. Having read An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States before reading Empire of the Summer Moon, I couldn't help but notice how differently the books presented the histories of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Europeans who "settled" the United States. Still, I found Empire of the Summer Moon engaging, informative, and interesting as well as bold and graphic.