Category Archives: Books

Adé

Ade A Love StoryAdé: A Love Story
by Rebecca Walker

This book is tiny– just over 100 pages. I read it not because it’s my favorite genre (I tend to run from the words “love story”) but because I had to see what a 100 page novel looks like.

Walker’s book is written in the form of a memoir, and apparently it is quite biographical— which makes it pretty heartbreaking.

For a big chunk of the book, I kept wishing for more setting, more description, more than a few lines per love scene. Where is Lamu? What does it look like? What does Adé sound like? I kept feeling disappointment at being left out.

In the end, I cried. Not only because the parting scenes were so exquisitely wrought, but because my longing for more seemed to echo Farida’s. I wanted to know: what happened? What was the fallout? Why did she never go back? And then I realized, she, too, wishes she knew the answers. She, too, was allowed a glimpse of something she longed for but was denied.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss this little gem. Appreciate the tiny portion offered. Just be prepared to remain hungry for more.

Amazon’s 100 books

Another list of 100 to read has been unleashed on the world, this time from Amazon.

Think all book lists are the same? Think again. This one’s got Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

AMAZON’S 100 BOOKS TO READ IN A LIFETIME

This is a dude’s booklist. Nearly three-quarters of the material here is written by male authors. Lots of male protagonists, too. And a lot of the stuff chosen is the DUDE-est but not necessarily best of the authors’ works.

By DUDE-est I mean sportiest/dirtiest/sexist(or sex-riddled)/most infuriatingly-casual-protagonist-est/fightingest/drunkest… You get the idea. I bet a lot more men than women will be impressed.

Here’s the lifetime: Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar give baby boys a solid footing.

Bigger boys slay their dragons with Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, ogle some graphic novels, then figure out who they are with Jeffrey Eugenides and John Green.

Ready for cigarettes and booze? Get angsty On The Road.

Go through your dirty old man phase with Portnoy’s Complaint.

To be fair, I’ve read and liked a lot of the books on this list. And I’m decidedly female. I’ve also tried to read quite a few of them and could not finish. Too manly for me, I guess. And I should point out that Pride and Prejudice is here, sticking out like an accidental flash of petticoat. But a nice choice, I suppose, for the dude who wants to impress the ladies. Overall, a nice random (or MANdom) list is great for reading recommendations for my own dude troupe and a bit of pot-stirring.

Back in my heady work-three-jobs-to-pay-for-school days, I carried a similarly hodge-podge list in my bookbag. Whenever there were a few minutes to spare, I’d pop into the library and pick up something new to read, no browsing required.

These days I lavish hours on library visits. But I still have a list:

THE READ MY BRAINS OUT LIST OF 100 FICTION BOOKS

If the testosterone levels get too high for you at Amazon, check it out.

Sherman Crunchley

ShermanCrunchleyCall me Sherma.

That’s how much I identify with Sherman Crunchley, the protagonist of the 2003 children’s book by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans.

Sherman is a police officer. Only he doesn’t like being a police officer. He likes hats.

But Sherman is afraid to tell his dad, the latest in a long, long, long (you get the idea) line of Crunchleys to hold office as Biscuit City Chief of Police, that he doesn’t want the job.

Sherman checks out "How to Say No"
Sherman checks out “How to Say No”

When Sherman finds out he’s next in line to wear the Chief of Police badge, he naturally heads to his local library to find a solution.

Will he be able to say no?

Will he follow his passion and do what he was born to do?

Find out! Don’t say no to this agreeable book.

Positively therapeutic for any people-pleasing child or codependent adult who fears saying “No.”

My Notorious Life

20140117-113155.jpgMy Notorious Life
by Kate Manning

Confession: I picked this book up three or four times before finally bringing it home. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a first person narrative. But the cover! The words surrounding that silhouette on the jacket –

NEW YORK.
1880.
MURDERED. 

It brought to mind one of my favorite novels, The Alienist, by Caleb Carr. I couldn’t stand it. First person or not, I had to read it. And I’m really glad I did. Lately a lot of books have been thrown against the wall around here for not staying true to their time and place. Kate Manning takes you to Victorian era New York and keeps you there. This is great historical fiction.

Axie Muldoon is an impoverished orphan train rider who learns early and is reminded often to trust no man who says, “Trust me”; who longs to reunite with her lost brother and sister as she promised her dying Mam she would; who eventually takes on the role of a midwife; who reinvents herself as the notorious Madame DeBeausacq (Madame X), performing certain unmentionable procedures for her patients in a time when women had few rights and little respect.

Confession #2: I wasn’t sure I could handle a story about an abortionist. I was afraid it would be overwhelmingly sad. (It wasn’t— it was more about women and 19th century society’s treatment of them— and Manning’s style was tasteful.)

The thing is, I’m pro-life. I’ve seen my own child, a tiny human swimming in and out of view on the ultrasound screen, so lively, so alive – only four weeks past conception. Axie, “confronting the fruits of [her] mercy,” saw something different, a “sprout… not alive yet, no more than a seed is alive, never quick at all.”

What came to mind then was that Bible Mrs. Evans read, the words something like better the miscarriage, for it never sees the sun, nor knows anything, and better is the one who has never existed for it knows not the evil that is. And I reasoned that to deliver it now was only to prevent a death or a doomed orphan, to save my friend, and my friend’s son. Still I shuddered, for the tracing of bone I seen was the outline of what might have been and now wasn’t, because of me, and I know myself after that to have the soul of a midwife, who could live with the complexities.

On the outside, it looks easy for someone like me to be pro-life. I have all the privileges: a home, money, food, a husband, support of extended family and a network of friends.

Inside, I faced the complexities.

When expecting my second child, a doctor advised us to terminate the pregnancy. At four months along, I was thoroughly malnourished. I couldn’t walk. My teeth were breaking apart. My health was so poor, the baby and I both were in danger of dying. I was put on such high doses of drugs known to cause birth defects, we were assured that our child would not be normal.

I chose to keep him.

Then I worried and prayed and “wrestled with the complexities” every single day until his premature cesarean delivery. He was so tiny, so quiet, and I remember crying, frantically, “Is he okay? Is he okay?” over and over again to doctors and assistants who were too busy to answer.

When I finally held him in my arms, I knew. In spite of the complexities, I had chosen what was right for me. For him. He is okay. And he is not normal. He is exceptional.

Why tell all of this in a book review? Because had I been a poor unwed mother 135 years ago, with death for us both a certainty rather than a possibility, I might have chosen differently. I might have sacrificed my unborn to save myself and my firstborn.

Complexities.

Such a powerful idea, suggesting that these decisions are rarely clear cut, that none of us can know or determine what is best for another, and it is never an easy choice, no matter what we decide.

Manning tells a gripping story with many truly beautiful sentences, but more importantly, she puts you in the shoes of another and makes you think.

Highly recommended, no matter which side of the issue you think you’re on.