Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The mother, Jane, finds herself in a world in which she never imagined herself being. She shares thoughts that most people keep to themselves. Thoughts that felt very familiar when I thought back to my response to my own daughter's diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Rachel was born in 1983 and I found it interesting to see that while surely things have changed since then, the emotions are timeless. In that way, the book never seemed dated.
I never felt sad reading this book, though grief is interwoven through the story. I think that may be because I've been there and realize that it's just a natural part of the journey.
The one thing that bothered me a little was the author's apparent obsession with the fact that her daughter could be found to be "retarded." She mentions it many times. If this were one of those stories where everything just ends up being ok in the end and it's all wrapped up with a pretty little bow with a sigh of relief and an expression of, "Whew! We just dodged a bullet, huh?" then maybe it would bother me more. But, like I said, she's honest about how she feels and it is scary to be faced with the unknown, so...I get it.
Where this book ends, Rachel in the World begins. I'm interested in reading that one eventually.
I'd be glad to send out Loving Rachel to anyone who wants to give it a read.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
You're probably wondering who the heck that is. Well, this woman was not only instrumental in saving American art in the early to mid-1900's, she was also surprisingly critical in establishing New York as the art capital of the world. During the depression and the two great wars, Halpert pressed on in her deep belief in the value of art. She was a creative tigress when it came to sales and marketing, which (as you can imagine) was not expected of women during those times. I'm sure many a frown came her way. Did she care? Hell no! She focused on what she believed in with an unflinching eye, and said to hell with stereotypes, perceptions, traditions, etc. In fact, if you read between the lines of Pollock's book, it strikes you that those concepts weren't even in Halpert's interesting head. She was a true American cultural hero. The real deal at a time with everyone needed a New Deal.
Pollock's book is filled with details about the business machinations of the art world at that time, many of which spill over into today. Apparently, Halpert kept meticulous records over the years, giving Pollock lots to work with in piecing her book together. If you know a thing or two about art, you'll come across many a name you recognize. You'll likely be surprised how instrumental Halpert was in developing the careers of many of her generation's greatest artists.
Halpert grew up in a not-so-great scenario. The family's need to penny pinch taught Halpert the value of money, great sales technique, creativity, and gumption. She took off to New York at age 16 and never looked back. As a teenager and young woman, she actually forged a professional career in the big city when the majority of women who worked (not many) where pinned down to specific types of non-professional jobs. By her mid-twenties, she was ready to break out on her own, and had the skill to open her own art gallery. The rest is history--history that you should know if you have any interest in art or New York.
Pollock's book may not be for everyone, but those who want to know more about how the art world works (and why) should most certainly pick this one up. Also, if you'd just like to read a n inspirational example of someone who had vision, integrity, smarts, creativity and heart, it's for you.
Edith Halpert is one of my new heroes. She definitely belongs on my list of honorary members of the Aberration Nation.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Jews and belly dancers. What do they have in common? Well, they haven’t always enjoyed the best treatment by others. Of course, this is an understatement with regard to Jews. Much has been written about the injustice thrown their way, while the mistreatment of belly dancers has not been widely chronicled. You may be thinking, dare you compare the two?
Look, people are people. My blog, Aberration Nation, focuses on the fact that life generally stinks; however, amidst that stink, it's beautiful , miraculous, and filled with hope. It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Christian, a belly dancer or a hip hop dancer. What happens to you is important. In light of this, I felt compelled to write about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Dial Press) and The Belly Dancer (Berkley Books) together.
Both books highlight the mistreatment of a specific segment of the population during a particular time in history. For the Guernsey book, it’s World War II, and for The Belly Dancer it’s the Chicago World’s Fair during the late 1800’s. While these two books are quite different, they relay a common message that standing up for what’s right amidst discrimination and bigotry is honorable. In the end, doing so brings us one step closer to everything being right with the world, despite any hardship or sacrifice that may befall us.
The two books actually have quite a bit in common. Both are a quick, delightful read. While they each include moments of brutal honesty and heart wrenching pain, they somehow make it easy to take in. Neither are what I call “life changing” reads, but one doesn’t get the feeling that this was the intention. DeAnna Cameron’s book reminds me of all the Barbara Cartland books I devoured when I was younger. The Belly Dancer effortlessly transports the reader to a different place and time, relaying a common situation that existed, teaching a little history, and ultimately leaving the reader satisfied. Similarly, the Guernsey book transports the reader to the English Channel Isles, taking folks on an interesting leap back in time to meet a slew of interesting characters whose common plight results in a happy ending and another satisfying read.
I recommend both books! I just hope more people will choose to stand up for what’s right in the real world. Maybe then we won’t have to keep depending on fictional characters such as Elizabeth and Dora to show us the way.
The Belly Dancer is up for grabs! I borrowed the other book from my neighbor ...
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Being raised in the Deep South entrenched in a fundamentalist Christian environment, I rarely heard anything positive about the world’s other religions. I remember once hearing that a friend’s mother had decided to become a Hindu or Buddhist. The words associated with the story were demonic, sin, lost, tragedy, and rescue. It sounded like a scary situation.
So now I’m all grown up, and a writer. And after forty-three years of a combination of blindly believing what I was taught, and questioning and contemplating it all, I’ve decided to write a new novel that delves into the greatest mystery of all time: God. Well, that’s a big nut to try and crack with 80,000 words, interesting characters, and an earthly plot.
What can I say? I love a good challenge, the impossible, the stretch, the things other people are either too smart or too dumb to touch with a ten foot pole. So I plan to start this novel next month. God will narrate.
My novel writing always begins with research, so to learn more about the world’s religions, I went to the bookstore to see what kinds of books would help. There were quite a few written by Christian ministers. And then there was the 50th Anniversary Edition of Huston Smith’s, The World’s Religions (HarperOne). I spent at least an hour reading the backs of each book. I considered buying several. Ultimately, the back cover of Smith’s book, coupled with its phenomenal 50-year shelf-life convinced me to lay out 17 bucks for it, and believe the thick paperback could ultimately serve as the basis of my research.
From the back cover:
Huston Smith’s masterpiece explores the essential elements and teachings of the world’s predominate faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the native traditions of Australia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.
Emphasizing the inner-rather than the institutional-dimension of these religions, Smith devotes special attention to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, and the teachings of Jesus. He convincingly conveys the unique appeal and gifts of each of the traditions and reveals their hold on the human heart and imagination.
Of course, the entire time I was reading Smith’s book, my well-meaning mother’s voice rang through my brain, telling me Smith was all wrong, and that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ. Everything else is evil, and furthermore, the end of the world is neigh. Perhaps many of you agree. That’s fine, but I believe that gaining an objective understanding of how individuals throughout history and across cultures have embraced what they believe to be God can only strengthen my own personal ideas about God, the meaning of my own life and, ultimately, my death. As a human being, I deserve to decide for myself. We will all die someday, and we will do it alone. We all hope to grasp, even if in some small way, how our own life can have meaning in relation to the millions who have shared our planet. Sometimes, although I don’t understand the arrogance involved, I envy those who are so sure they know all the answers. I’m still searching. Sometimes lately, I think of myself as a single blade of beautiful grass, perfect in its role, and wonder if God simply wants me to enjoy being green, swaying in the breeze, providing a cushion for a tired foot, food for a hungry soul, or just beauty for those who can look at me and appreciate what it is I am. Perhaps it is just that simple. I’d love to just relax and live out my purpose. So it is in the context that I set out to learn more.
The World’s Religions brilliantly melts the religions mentioned above into the basic messages conveyed by the phenomenal, even ordained/supernatural, individuals (and in the case of Judaism, the people) whose sparks originally set them ablaze. It’s interesting how these basic, and interestingly similar, messages were quite simple at the onset yet society managed to complicate them a hundred times over. Smith calls the basic common religious messages, the wisdom traditions. All rooted in love, they speak of avoiding murder, thieving, lying, and adultery. They also push humility, charity, and veracity. Whether or not we as individuals successfully adhere to these ideas moment to moment, day to day, year after year, it seems obvious that the vast majority would agree that these ideas serve as basic excellent goals for living. Bathe them in love for one another and we just might have a perfect world. Smith delves into and defines these goals as viewed through each religion.
Smith also explains the traditions and cultures that support each. In the end, Smith’s eloquent and intelligent explanations relay how important and real God is to the human race, but also just how convoluted and confusing we’ve managed to make it. Smith doesn’t tell you what to believe, but he does attempt to answer the critical question of how “we comport ourselves in a pluralistic world that is riven by ideologies, some sacred, some profane?” His answer is that we listen.
Smith says, “Those who listen build peace, a peace built not on ecclesiastical or political hegemonies but on understanding and mutual concern. For understanding, at least in realms as inherently noble as the great faiths of mankind, brings respect; and respect prepares the way for a higher power, love—the only power that can quench the flames of fear, suspicion, and prejudice, and provide the means by which the people of this small but precious Earth can become one to one another.”
It’s tough for me to read and write about a book without also considering other books I’ve recently read. (I see life in connected patterns; perhaps that’s one reason I’m a writer.) During the time I was reading The World’s Religions, I also read the Dalai Lama’s book, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality as well as Carlotta Walls LaNiers’ A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School (review coming soon). The Dalai Lama’s book focuses on the vase and deep well of knowledge that still eludes us, while LaNier’s book relayed how, not so very long ago, extreme, unfounded hatred and bigotry existed in our own backyard. In today’s global society, there is still much room to grow. According to Smith, there will never be one world religion because people and cultures are so vastly different, nor should there have to be. All we need is love. It is the root of our quest, no matter where we live. Smith points out that love and understanding (which comes from listening) are reciprocal. I wish Little Rock had exhibited more love and understanding in the late 1950’s. I wish there was more today in Tibet.
When I was growing up, I heard an awful lot of people speaking, desperately trying to give to the world what they thought was salvation. There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of listening going on. Smith writes that Thomas Merton once said that God speaks to us in three places: in scripture, in our deepest selves, and in the voice of the stranger. We must have the graciousness to receive as well as to give, for there is no greater way to depersonalize another than to speak without also listening. I've been depersonalized in this way so I deeply related to this message.
Smith’s book gave me exactly what I was looking for during my hour spent in the bookstore Religion aisle. It taught me the basics of the world’s religions in a refreshing, unbiased way yet also gave me a lot to think about. I plan to think about all those things as I write my new novel. Once finished, I’m not sure if my opinions on God and religion will have changed but something will change. After all, that’s one of the reasons I write. As for today, my religion is love.
Huston Smith is widely regarded as the most eloquent and accessible contemporary authority on the history of religions. To learn more about Smith and his work, go here.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I've been meaning to post about this book for a while now. A long while. I keep carrying it with me, back and forth to work, hoping to find a few minutes to write down my thoughts.
Lisa sent this one to me. She reviewed it on her other blog.
I enjoyed it. Yes, cancer was a central theme and I learned a lot about how it can affect a family and I truly felt for this mom with her loving husband and really young daughters, but what jumped out at me and had me in tears at times was the relationship between the author and her father.
See, I didn't have that kid of relationship with my dad. Still don't. I envied that they called each other on the phone and that he came and visited her, even while in the midst of battling this horrible disease. I would just sit back while reading and go, "Wow. That really happens, huh?"
In one part, the author, Kelly Corrigan, is surprised by this huge engagement party. What she does upon entering the room gave me chills:
I started to make out some of the faces in the barely lit room...Then a voice came shooting clear at me through the noise and the dark and I ran straight into Greenie [her father], and we rocked back and forth just laughing while the people around us held their hearts and wiped their eyes. Even my mom, who was as happy as I had ever seen her, waited patiently while Greenie held me to him and said, " I knew he was out there, Lovey. A man who loves you as much as I do. I told you we'd find him."
I mean, really.
The end threw me for a loop though. Possibly jealousy on my part, but I didn't see it coming.
If you'd like to read this book and see for yourself, let me know and I'll put it in the mail right away.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Clapton, The Autobiography by Eric Clapton
Monday, August 24, 2009
Lisa wrote up good reviews on these books already, so I won't repeat ... but I will add that it was a very interesting pairing - since these books overlapped a lot of the same history, but one was fiction and the other a non-fiction memoir. Personally, I really enjoy historical fiction, and actually learned quite a bit about Shanghai and Chinese history in general that I really just had no idea about. I preferred the story in Shanghai Girls (even if the ending was a bit abrupt), as the memoir was interesting, but rather dry and incomplete in parts.
So if anyone is interested in reading them now, just let me know!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Last night a friend and I went to see The Time Traveler's Wife, as we had both read the book. The movie seems to be getting not-so-great reviews by critics, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. I thought the adaptation was very well done, and the actors were very believable.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I heard this book mentioned, over and over again, after I gave birth to my daughter and received her Ds dx. I assumed it was a memoir and perhaps not the kind in which I would have an interest. I totally judged this book by its cover. I mean that literally. The cover is kinda creepy.
If I recall correctly, the author, Martha Beck, Oprah guest/Life Coach, tried to sell this book as fiction at first. And I can see why. The story is somewhat unbelievable. Whether that's good or bad is for each person to decide.
But there was something about it that drew me in. I think Martha writes beautifully and she's obviously intelligent, even witty. I went along for the ride and I was disappointed when it ended. I wanted to know what happened next. And when I say "next" I mean up through yesterday.
I feel like I'm being cryptic, and maybe I am, because I don't want to give too much away. I sent the book to Lisa a couple of days ago and I really am looking forward to her perspective.
The basics are that Martha is a mom of a toddler, married, and pursuing her PhD at Harvard. She has an unplanned pregnancy and the little boy she's carrying is pre-natally diagnosed with Ds. And then a lot of stuff happens. The End.
Stand by for Lisa's review and, if you're still interested after my "stellar" review, be sure and put in a request to have it mailed to you.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Um, it's completely obvious I stole that image from Amazon, isn't it!?
Anyway. My mom read this book in her book club and she really liked it.
I read it - and I really liked it, too. I really connected to it, it was touching and compelling. My brother read it and he was disappointed, 'Well, it didn't really go anywhere."
And that's true - it doesn't go very far, but I really like a touch of history in my books, and this was an easy, enjoyable read.
The book bounces back & forth between a man in a current day nursing home and his time with a traveling circus as a young man, during the Great Depression. The thing is, I hate circuses. They seem dirty and cruel - but this really opened my eyes as to how circus's used to be - when they were rare and entertaining (and dirty and dangerous). Book summary on Amazon.
If anyone hasn't read this book yet and would like to, just holler!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See - In all honesty, I bought this book because the cover is so beautiful. After what I saw as the disappointment of Peony in Love, I wasn't sure what to expect of this book. It lived up to, and even surpassed, in my opinion, Snow Flower and The Secret Fan. This is the story of two sisters, who are the closest of friends and, at times, the bitterest of rivals. Born in Shanghai in the 1930s into a live of privilege and plenty, their world is shattered with the invasion of the Japanese. They make a harrowing journey to America where they build a new life, trying to reconcile the conflicting feelings they have between homesickness for their home country and Chinese culture and beliefs, and wanting to embrace the American dream. I really loved this book!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
In a secluded woodland castle an old General prepares to receive a rare visitor, a man who was once his closest friend but who he has not seen in forty-one years. Over the ensuing hours host and guest will fight a duel of words and silences, accusations and evasions. They will exhume the memory of their friendship and that of the General’s beautiful, long-dead wife. And they will return to the time the three of them last sat together following a hunt in the nearby forest--a hunt in which no game was taken but during which something was lost forever. Embers is a classic of modern European literature, a work whose poignant evocation of the past also seems like a prophetic glimpse into the moral abyss of the present
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
First of all, I thought I'd be really intrigued by reading the story of someone with a prenatal diagnosis and how they adapted and learned about DS and then their feelings when the baby finally arrived. But instead I find I'm really annoyed by the prose. It read (to me) like a man (the author) was doing a dramatic voice-over for every detail of these people's lives. Voice of a book is important to me, and this was just dragging me down.
So. I didn't finish this book, I am ashamed to say. I didn't even make it to the birth of Naia. That's hard for me to admit - I used to finish a book regardless of whether or not I liked it, but now I have better things to do with my time, I guess.
Did I sell you on it? Anyone want to take a stab at a book that I was too lazy to power through?