Thursday, June 15, 2017

Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir by Paul Monette

I bought Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir by Monette because it was recommended by a class on AIDS I was taking as research for a book I'm writing. I thought the book might help me better understand the AIDS patient and even AIDS itself. Monette tells a story that is a heartbreaking mix of love, family, and loss. Not just the loss of his life partner but loss of a way of being in the world. He demonstrates eloquently the devastation fear wreaks when knowledge is minimal while showing the immense power of love to hold people together. At times, Monette's self-deprecation felt a bit too much, but it showed a glimpse into how insecurities can push us to both our best and our worst. He talked with graphic detail about the physical havoc AIDS brought not only to the bodies of those who suffer with it but to the lives and the communities where AIDS became such an accepted part of life that people talked about when instead of if. Monette talks about his and the gay community's resentment of people's ignorance and particularly their determination to remain ignorant. His love for his life partner, Roger Horwitz, is palpable throughout the book. I felt almost like an interloper in their lives in some of the more intimate portions of the book. Monette writes in a way that had me wishing for Roger to be saved even though I knew before I even began the book that was impossible. Near the end, I also found myself longing for Roger's suffering to end even though the end of that suffering meant death. Monette's description of full-blown AIDS and the suffering of not only Roger but their friends broke my heart and made me determined to support death with dignity laws. Monette downplays his own diagnosis of AIDS throughout the book. Roger is his focus because Roger is the one who is in crisis. I felt Monette's grief throughout the pages. I felt the secrecy in place to try to protect those who could offer support. I felt the love these two men shared. I felt the openness of love and compassion coupled with the anger and despair at a system not moving quickly enough to make a difference in lives. Borrowed Time is a reminder that no matter who we are, how we live our lives, or who we love, the time we have is only borrowed and it will be taken away at some point...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Death Makes No Deals by David L. Hoof

Death Makes No Deals by David L. Hoof offers the reader a nonnegotiable deal filled with intrigue, suspicion, and complicated relationships. Hoof’s characters feel like someone you could meet at your favorite coffee shop or strike up a conversation with in a bar and never guess the depths of the secrets they hold, the struggles they face, or the world they live in all while assuming far too much in common or far too many differences. Death Makes No Deals coaxes the reader to accept that humans have a tendency to create a reality we can accept even when everything around us screams our reality is little more than fantasy. Hoof aptly demonstrates that the past will haunt the present and both will inform the future based on our interpretations and decisions. Death Makes No Deals is filled with deadly deals that demonstrate the power of death over the living.

Note: This review is based on an unedited ARC provided by the author.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver parallels flights taken for preservation by juxtaposing a housewife's need to spread her wings with the migration of Monarch butterflies. Kingsolver demonstrates the feeling of not belonging in one's own life through Dellarobia's interactions and internal thoughts and the exploration of what would cause the Monarch butterfly to overwinter in an area that could cause its extinction rather than its usual habitat. My heart ached for Dellarobia as the lack of real communication combined with financial hardship complicates every part of her life. Kingsolver brings the consequences of changing environments to the forefront in this exploration of migration patterns, climate change, self-discovery, and life changes. Interspersed throughout Flight Behavior is the conflict between religious beliefs and science in both Dellarobia's life and community. Flight Behavior creates a microcosm of the world in which we live demonstrating how interconnected we all are regardless of the beliefs we embrace or the facts we refuse to embrace.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lift Off: From the Classroom to the Stars by Donovan Livingston

Lift Off: From the Classroom to the Stars by Donovan Livingston is a small book with quite an impact. The words of Livingston take us on a journey through the history and the importance of education. Lift Off reminds us that the way we change the world is through education that teaches us where we came from, so we know where we're going. As I read I couldn't help but think about how important it is that we get education right, that we stop playing politics with education, and that we give all children an equal chance at an education that prepares them for the future. Lift Off inspires in its honesty and its hope.

Note: Lift Off was a spoken word poem given by Donovan Livingston as the convocation at Harvard Graduate School of Education in May 2016. Below is the video if you'd like to watch it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes edited by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes edited by Arnold Rampersad, Editor, and David Roessel, Associate Editor covers the poetry Langston Hughes wrote during his life. Hughes tackled myriad issues throughout his lifetime without apology. His language, though lyrical, is also often blunt and leaves little to interpretation though it invokes intense imagery at times. I felt a wide range of emotions as I read The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. The poems depicted a life I'll never life while offering insight into the reality of others in a way that forced me to think about my own existence in the world and how I interact with those around me. Authenticity rings through Hughes's work even when he paints moments that feel a bit fantastical. I took my time reading these poems because many are intense and require thought while others are lighthearted observations on life. I was, at times, surprised at how much punch some of Hughes's shorter works contained. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes reminded me how important poetry is to the narrative of our lives and history being made around us even in the moments that seem the most ordinary to us.

Friday, May 5, 2017

High Point of Persistence: The Miriam Richards Story by Damara Paris, Miriam Richards, and Hilary White

High Point of Persistence: The Miriam Richards Story by Damara Paris, Miriam Richards, and Hilary White illustrates how determination, perseverance, and persistence work together to push people to overcome challenges and obstacles. Miriam Richards didn't let anything, including her deafness or Multiple Sclerosis, get in the way of her goals. When she faced a challenge that appeared to have no solution, she found a way around it. She pursued her goal of visiting the high points in each state pushing herself beyond limits that seem impossible. Her story is at times heart-wrenching, at times ordinary, at times joyous, but it is always inspiring and encouraging to those who wish to accomplish more in their lives. Richards determination to push herself even when she was in pain made me feel determined to stop letting minor inconveniences get in the way of my progress. High Point of Persistence: The Miriam Richards Story inspired me to step outside my comfort zone and think about the things I would like to accomplish even if it makes me uncomfortable to get there...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho was one of those books I put on my reading list a long time ago and finally got around to reading recently. I really wasn't sure what to expect, but I'd heard from many people The Alchemist was worth reading. I'm glad I finally did even though at times I found it a bit too symbolic. The weaving of the supernatural, religion, and culture seemed to be a bit on the cliche side in spite of the message of the story. The Alchemist works as an allegory for having faith in the "signs" life presents as one travels through it. Coelho's writing immersed me in the story and made the characters seem all too real and surreal at the same time. The Alchemist is filled with a sense of wonder and mystery in the simplicity of the story that seems to transcend itself but really always comes back to the message that one must seek in order to find.