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.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fire Up Your Writing Brain: How to Use Proven Neuroscience to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Writer by Susan Reynolds

I became intrigued by Fire Up Your Writing Brain: How to Use Proven Neuroscience to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Writer because I like things based in science, based on scientific research. That said, there were a few times when I wished the scientific research was a tiny bit more front and center in the discussion. When I started it, I thought it would be a fairly quick read even with the exercises... I thought wrong. Instead, I spent several months reading Fire Up Your Writing Brain and working through the exercises. I even did some of the extra credit options though not all. I saved some exercises for later when they fit my projects at hand. Fire Up Your Writing Brain made me look deeper into my writing process as well as more aware of where my attention goes throughout the day including what interferes with my writing process. While I sometimes became frustrated with some of the exercises working through them always brought me to either an epiphany or a new piece of work. Fire Up Your Writing Brain offers a great way to jump start a stalled writing process or even heighten one that isn't stalled. I will keep Fire Up Your Writing Brain on my shelves for reference and will likely return to the exercises when I feel the need to fire up my writing brain.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Verseweavers: The Oregon Poetry Association Anthology of Prize-winning Poems 2015

Verseweavers: The Oregon Poetry Association Anthology of Prize-winning Poems 2015 (Number 20) contains the that won The Oregon Poetry Association's Spring and Fall 2015 contests as well as commentary from the judges of the myriad categories. It's easy to see why a vast majority of these poems won even without reading the competing poems. While a few didn't quite hit the mark for me, I'm sure they would for other people. The poems explore a wide variety of forms and themes offering something for just about any poetry reader. Verseweavers 2015 was printed in  limited edition and therefore might not be easy to acquire a copy of; however, if you can it's worth a read.

This particular issue isn't available on The Oregon Poetry Association website as of the publication of this blog post; however past issues are. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange is a poem written for a stage performance or a play written in poetic form. Perhaps it is appropriate to call it both. There are moments in the reading when the stage direction feels incredibly integral to the experience of reading and others when it's slightly distracting. Shange brings her characters to life and delves into the beauty and the hardship of life with equal intensity. Shange's poetry  For Colored girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf offers a commentary on myriad issues and highlights the connections between us and our actions that we often fail to see or even willfully refuse to see. I longed to see the stage performance as I read. I will likely watch the movie on YouTube some time soon. The DVD of both the movie and the Broadway Theatre Archive versions are available on Amazon.

 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Mad Country by Samrat Upadhyay

Mad Country by Samrat Upadhyay puts the reader into the minds and hearts of a hodgepodge of characters while examining the social and political issues that govern their lives. These snippets of life push the reader to think about life from different perspectives perhaps even questioning the conventions of life we often accept without a moment's thought. Mad Country delves into the raw emotions and the intense dogmas held by people that create division and destroy communication while pushing the reader to cheer for some characters, commiserate with others, and despise others and sometimes doing all three for the one character or the other. Upadhyay writes stories that feel like snapshots of his characters' lives and drawing parallels that remind the reader just how interwoven all our lives really are.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot


I started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot without much knowledge about HeLa cells and particularly little know about their widespread use in medical research. Skloot tells the story not only of Henrietta and her family but of the evolution of medical research combined with glimpses into the history of race relations in America, at least in part. Skloot focuses on Henrietta and the Lacks family in a way that sometimes feels almost invasive but nonetheless is fascinating.  The Lacks family is a family like any other filled with interesting, multifaceted characters. There was an honesty and a rawness that was almost painful to read at times. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks demonstrates on almost every page just how interconnected we are. Skloot's investigation into the research that uses HeLa cells leaves little doubt that you and I are only alive today because of said research. Skloot tells a story that engages and enlightens by keeping the focus on the family and their experience even when she follows the HeLa cells to various labs around the world where they're used to make medical and scientific advances that benefit everyone even as the Lacks family struggles to make ends meet. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks weaves together the biography of a woman, a family saga, and a look into medical research in a way that is both thought provoking and enlightening.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The After Party by Jana Prikryl

The After Party by Jana Prikryl left me with more of a feeling or the impression of being than it did a distinct reaction to individual poems. There's a current of accepting the idea of just being that weaves itself through the myriad poems that took me on a journey alongside Prikryl. I appreciated Prikryl's use of language to examine how interconnected we are with one another with all our similarities and our differences as well as with the past, the present, and the future. As I read The After Party I often lost track of the words in an immersion of mood, atmosphere, and emotion feeling rather surprised when I came to the end of the poem.