Monday, June 29, 2009


I'm thinking of putting this blog up on Networked Blogs on FB to see if we can gain readership . . . thoughts? Opinions?

Read and Ready: A Midwife's Story

I love that we have a re-posting already! It tells me that we're doing something right.

Not long ago, Lisa posted her review of A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong and I took her up on the offer to read the book.

It's a pretty quick and interesting read, so even I was able to complete it in a decent amount of time.

I'm glad that I don't live within driving distance of Amish country right now because I'd probably start stalking them or something after reading this book. I love learning about other cultures. A few years ago, while I was on a week-long training for work, I stayed in Lancaster and even went on a buggy tour of an Amish community, including an actual home. Penny's description of her life birthing Amish babies and becoming friends with many in the community was fascinating to me and sparked my interest all over again.

This book also struck a chord because I've been interested in learning about more natural approaches to giving birth. I don't know what I'll do if I ever give birth again, but I do like being informed and hearing different perspectives.

I believe Megan would like to read this next. If so, email me and I'll get it right to you.

If Megan would like to pass at this time, it can go to the next interested party.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Disability is Natural

I just posted about this amazing book on my blog. I wish I could give a copy to everyone I know!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Glass Castle: A Memoir

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose ideals and stubborn nonconformity were both their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. Rex was a charismatic, brilliant man who, when sober, captured his children's imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and above all, how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary, who painted and wrote and couldn't stand the responsibility of providing for her family, called herself an "excitement addict." Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she could make a painting that might last forever.
Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town -- and the family -- Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape. He drank. He stole the grocery money and disappeared for days. As the dysfunction of the family escalated, Jeannette and her brother and sisters had to fend for themselves, supporting one another as they weathered their parents' betrayals and, finally, found the resources and will to leave home.
What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.
For two decades, Jeannette Walls hid her roots. Now she tells her own story. A regular contributor to, she lives in New York and Long Island and is married to the writer John Taylor.
I could NOT put this book down, it was a great read! It's up for grabs so let me know if you want it and I'll get it out to you this week!

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: The upside of spending so much time at the hospital while Michael sleeps is that I've had plenty of time to read. This was probably not the best book to have chosen during this particular time, however, as it's rather dark and disturbing (I could use something a bit lighter and more uplifting right now). This is the story of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl growing up in the 1930s, and wishing for blue eyes, which in her mind symbolize the epitome of whiteness, and therefore beauty, worthiness, love, and acceptance. It tells the story of her steady destruction by those around her. Themes include racial hatred, racial self-loathing, domestic abuse, incest, and poverty. Toni Morrison is a beautiful writer, and this, her first novel, is apparently highly acclaimed. I think I would have appreciated it more under different circumstances.

It's up for grabs - lemme know.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Authors in sidebar??

I was thinking that we could put a little blurb about each of our authors in the sidebar, maybe with a photo and a link to that person's other blog(s) (if applicable). I may be the only one with the ability to do this since I am the only author with admin privileges. Lemme know if you want me to put something in the sidebar for you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Am I getting ahead of myself in thinking we need a button for this blog? To put on our other blogs?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On the Summer Reading List

Right now I'm in a pretty intensive two-week summer school course on Multicultural Art Education. We're focusing on Africa and the Middle East. Today in class a high school teacher of gifted and advanced placement students came to talk to us about the culture and history of Africa and how she teaches her kids about it. She recommended three books (two of which are requirements for her students; the other is not appropriate for younger readers). They all sound wonderful and I am definitely putting them on my to-read list. (Two of the authors are actually coming to speak to her classes...wish I had a teacher like that in high school.)

I was so excited about them that I wanted to post them here now even though I haven't read them yet:

The Camel Bookmobile, Masha Hamilton
A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah (this is the one not appropriate for high-schoolers...too graphic)
The Bite of the Mango, Mariatu Kamara

Let me know what you think about them if you get to them before I do!


Edited to add:

Up for grabs!! First come, first served. :-)

Testimony by Anita Shreve

This book, which is centered around a sexual assault at a New England private boarding school, is written from the perspective of each of the characters. I found it to be a quick read (started on Friday, finished today) and a gripping, though sad, story.

Bad Mother.

I'm hoping my post didn't get's on June 10th, if anyone wants to read it. :-)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong (memoir)

A Midwife's Story by Penny Armstrong and Sheryl Feldman: I am a sucker for a good memoir, and pretty much anything centering around pregnancy, birth, and/or midwifery (I swear under other circumstances, I'd love to be a midwife; as it is, however, I'll have to settle for reading obsessively about it). This book did not disappoint on either count. It's a very down-to-earth, moving, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking account of one midwife who caught babies in an Amish community for a number of years. Also paints a very real picture of what is wrong with how much modern medicine and technology has impinged on what should be the beautiful processes of pregnancy and birth.

I LOVED this book!

And it's up for grabs - leave a comment or send me an email if you want it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A couple more . . .

How could I have forgotten Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry??? I adore this book; it very well might be my favorite of all time. It's a western, of all things, and tells the story of a group of misfit cowboys who drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana in the later nineteenth century. Another epic of a book - I believe it's over 1000 pages. I've read it twice and I think I'm due to read it again.

Also, East of Eden by John Steinbeck - loved it, loved it.

Jewel by Bret Lott (novel)

For those that don't know me, my name is Chrystal and I have an almost two year old daughter who was diagnosed with Down syndrome (Ds) when she was born. Because of that little extra, I seem to have become obsessed with books that use Ds as a theme, have characters with Ds, etc.

The non-fiction stuff is ok, but the fiction? Much better and easier to read. It doesn't feel so much like work.

Previously, I offered these books on my blog, but I think I like this here idea of Lisa's so that we can keep it all in one place. So, from time to time, I'll offer books and reviews. Some related to Ds, or maybe not. Time will tell.

First up is Jewel.

Jewel reminded me a lot of The Grapes of Wrath, which I read back in high school. Perhaps it was the similarity of a working class family looking for a better life. Both took place in right around the same time period as well.

The book is named for the main character, Jewel Hilburn. This book basically tells the story of her life, including her relationships with her husband, Leston, and their six children. The youngest of the six is Brenda Kay, who was born with Ds.

What a time to be born with a disability! The language is that of the time and place that the book describes (think early 20th century Mississippi, mostly), so that takes some getting used to, but it's a good story, regardless.

What I took away from this book was just how far we've come in how we raise our children with disabilities. Brenda Kay was an exception in that her mother was a pioneer of sorts and fought to have her not only stay at home with the family, but also be educated.

If this sounds like something in which you'd be interested, leave a comment and it'll be on the way.

A Partial List of Some of the Best Books I've Read, In No Particular Order

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: This goes without saying. I read it the first time when I was in high school and then re-read it about a year and a half ago for my book club, and just couldn't put it down. It's over 1000 pages, but I really look forward to reading it again someday.

Roots by Alex Haley: This is another epic story that is worth reading more than once.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: I loved this book so much. I'm a sucker for birth and sisterhood-of-women stuff.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Amazing, amazing read. A far-fetched, but still somehow believable story.

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb: I've read this one twice and loved it even more the second time. I love a good story of dysfunction.

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs: Another memoir about complete and utter dysfunction, but told without an ounce of self-pity and loads of sarcasm and humor. Right up my alley. People seem to either hate this book or love it. I loved it, in fact so much that I immediately went out and bought and read all of his other books.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs: A follow-up to Running With Scissors, this is his account of dealing with his alcoholism and drug addiction.

Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck: Another memoir about a really effed-up childhood.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: Really good book; appealed to my atheist sensibilities.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Wonderful story.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: Even better than his first book in my opinion.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell: I loved this book as much as an adult as I did as a kid . . . and it made me cry just as much.

I'm sure there are more, but there's my starter list.

Bad Mother

The premise of this book, as mothers we should really recognize that we're all just doing the best we can, is a great one. Ayelet Waldman makes many strong initial points as to why we, as mothers, are so quick to judge each other. The reasons range from our own insecurities (duh) to the fact that society, though much closer to equality than it once was, is still male dominated. These points are not only valid but are well supported.

Waldman, however, seems to quickly disintegrate into the defensive posture that she so eloquently railed against. She spends many chapters, seemingly, defending herself as a parent, be it the way she chooses to introduce sex education to her children or the way she schools them in politics (note: I don't necessarily disagree with the way she's chosen to parent - heck - I totally fly by the seat of my pants, however, I found the way she wrote about it to be defensive). Some may say this vein is simple honesty and while it is honest, it is clearly contrary to the premise that we mothers should be less self degradading.

The hardest chapter for me to swallow and, if I'm being totally honest, the point at which I felt Waldman was being the most self indulgent, was the chapter about Rocketship ~ her unborn child who she chooses to terminate based upon genetic testing done via amnio. Let me say, loud and clear, I am PRO-CHOICE.

Perhaps I, too, have fallen into the judgemental nature of motherhood and am looking to brand Waldman as a bad mother for terminating her pregnancy. Granted, my opinion on this is based upon the fact that my daughter, also, has a trisomy. It's also based upon my opinion on prenatal testing and unreliability of the test results. This is not to say that I think one should not have testing done, rather that I think it's a shame that the medical profession presents the results as cold, hard fact when, in reality, false positives are quite common. *I* could never terminate a pregnancy based upon prenatal testing as I would always wonder if the results were accurate and am not willing to risk terminating a fetus that could be totally healthy (and when I say "healthy", I include trisomies, heart defects, intestinal issues, etc.). Whereas Waldman seems to have the opposite view. It seems as though her stance is that if the test results are accurate then she is "unlucky" enough to have a child who is "less than perfect" and she's unwilling to risk that the positive could, in fact, be wrong. I find it interesting that Waldman refers to her termination and "genetic abortion", as if specifying that it's for genetic reasons makes it, some how, more acceptable given that she had genetic testing (and likely medical professionals) backing up her decision to end the life of her unborn child.

I found it ironic that the very lesson those of us blessed to have a child similar to the one she terminated was the very lesson Waldman learned when one of her children was diagnosed with a learning disability. It's a shame that she did not see the irony in the fact that what she was so afraid of (developmental delay, learning difficulties) was something that was already present within her family, even though it didn't show up prenatally.

All in all, this book was a good read. It was honest. It was thought provoking. It was interesting.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons (novel)

Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons: I read this a couple years ago and don't remember too much about it except that it's about the complicated relationship between a daughter and her manic-depressive mother. It takes place, I believe, in the 1940s or '50s. I bought it because I like this author; I've read a couple of her other books, including Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman. Sights Unseen is a quick read.
I have the hardcover version, but the cover is different than the one pictured. It's up for grabs if anyone wants it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (novel)

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson: This is the fictional story of a drug addicted porn star who is in a terrible car accident which leaves him severely burned over most of his body. While he is in the hospital for several months following his accident, a mysterious woman begins visiting him and telling him wild stories from medieval times. Intertwined in these stories is the supposed story of their past life together as lovers. Highly implausible, but an excellent read nonetheless; I really enjoyed this book. The narrator (the burn victim/ex-porn star) is likeable in spite of himself; he starts out as a cynical, selfish, shallow person (whom you still can't help but like), and grows into a deeper, more accepting person through the book.

This is a hardcover and is up for grabs. First come, first served.