Author: katee

History

One cannot review Barracoon. One reads it and is given something that we rarely get in this world – someone’s story unedited, unforgiving, and un-redacted. American history in education is full of redactions to suit a purpose. To whitewash the history of slavery is a reflection of those who wrote the history books – white people hoping to to make slavery more palatable and, in a sense, more forgivable by disconnecting it from today and diminishing the horrors. Even more than that, the only voice we hear is white. That disconnect and silencing aids in the insidious creep of racism into our societal constructs of today – ever less apparent to those who benefit from it. Zora Neale Hurston is an incredible gifted writer. To refuse to alter the voice of Oluale Kossula, she shows herself to be more than a gifted writer. She shows herself to be measured and endlessly dedicated to capturing the truth. The recovery of this work allows us a chance to listen to a voice of truth, our real history. …

Feeling Old. Might Delete Later.

I don’t know that I have much of a framework for “reviewing” books like this. I’m obviously old enough that I identified with the cranky old teacher who would rather turn people into apples than deal with their nonsense. Wayside School is obviously a strange little book with strange little characters. It’s like fantasy for eight year olds. A book grounded in something they understand, a classroom, and expands on the complexities and simplicities of learning, friendship, and recess, while being out of this world wacky. I can see how kids my niece and nephew’s age would laugh and laugh at the silliness. I also can see how the bouncy, punchy read could keep the attention of its intended audience.  As an adult, I appreciate a couple of things about this book. One, every student in the classroom gets a chapter – or at least most of them. They are all their own self. I think it is a subtle but important point for kids. We are all someone with individuality, flaws, silly sides, and …

A Gross Argument for Living Your Best Life

Here’s the thing – Ali Wong is hilarious. No one needs to argue that. Her specials are the end result of a person who has been working their craft for some time and it shows because they are laugh out loud hilarious. I appreciate that her unabashedly raunchy humor is not always everyone’s cup of tea, but it is not put upon. I have a friend who went to high school with her and he says she was the same even back then – unapologetically filthy. What I think we can all appreciate about Ali Wong is that she has stepped into the limelight as a woman, Asian, American, sexual, and self-made. She has done so without letting any one of those factoids define her but also has never lost a sense of self. All of those things are part of who she is and where she is going – flaws and all. The stories she tells for her girls are at times not things I think any parent would honestly admit to their children …

Just Awe Inspiring

Bryan Stevenson’s writing is an astonishing testament to our failures as a society and the remarkable lengths one person can go to to try to right our course. He has spent his adult life advocating for those who have been so unjustly sacrificed to an incredibly flawed system. He has continued passion for his pursuits that is awe inspiring. What he has accomplished and created has benefited the lives of so many people and their families and friends. Not every man or woman can look beyond someone’s label of “criminal, thief, liar, rapist, or murderer” and see what potential is still there, what humanity is still there.  You can’t separate this work from the author. But what I can say is that as an author, Stevenson is gifted. He layers several stories, characters, and legal jargon in a remarkable way. He puts so much care into the way he writes about his clients, his own experiences, and explaining how we are good people but end up doing such horrible things to one another. He draws …

A little bit of nice…

Full honesty here – after reading the synopsis of this book, I expected to not entirely enjoy this read. I’m not entirely sure why but just a gut thing. After reading it, here is what I can say – for what it is, the book is delightful. The hard and handsome landscape contrasts the somewhat airy and pretty story very nicely. The pace is excellent without sparing imagery, making it a hard one to put down. Plus, I really enjoyed learning a bit of badass women history. I mean, these women were freaking amazing. The other side of the coin is that the story certainly lacks for some character complexity. Each person in the story, while serving a very distinct purpose, is either decidedly good or decidedly bad (or at the very least deeply flawed). No character is particularly challenging. Everything is made easy for you in the book – including Depression Era Kentucky, which is made to feel quaint.  I felt it a bit problematic that families living in abject poverty hoping for a …

An Important History Lesson in Feminism

Angela Y. Davis’ work is historically honest and somehow succinct but incredibly expansive at the same time. Unwrapping the complicated nuances of race and gender narratives and their gross entanglement with societal class structure both historically and in more modern ways, Davis evaluates several dark corners of our country’s past ranging from slavery, education, rape, and reproductive rights. She details how women’s empowerment movement has been dissected internally by complicating issues of race and class. Her book is, in many ways, a love song to the fight for equality but sharply draws into focus the consistent impedance to success. Historians not only inform our pasts but, when doing their job correctly, should guide our future. By informing our past failings, perhaps we can alter how we choose to proceed going forward. My innate response to historical themes of race and gender had generally been “yep, I know its bad.” That’s not because I don’t care but because I don’t know how to help or admittedly really understand the scope. Davis’ work has given me a …

A Shining Starr

I hate to stay a timely piece. I feel that because a book like this has never NOT been timely. Perhaps its impact is potentially more grand because of the current cultural narrative.  Regardless, I felt this book was everything it was meant to be. One of my favorite scenes in the book is one Kathryn H. referred to – when Starr, Seven, DeVante, and Chris are leaving the riots in the car. The conversation on names and race was one that I felt so delicately touched on the idea of the spectrum of racism. Chris is carefully constructed as a slightly awkward white guy with a level of caring for Starr that I just found so sweet. So when he asks about why black people don’t have “normal” names, was it awkward?  Sure largely because he asked it as gracefully as a dump truck on ice. But was it racist? Kind of, yea…but Starr, Seven, and DeVante go on tell him why that question is grounded in his perceptions of race and answer his question. …

What’s it about? Stuff. Really good stuff.

Commonwealth is an uncommon read.  It revolves around a family that is uncommon but somehow not uncommon at all. The relationships between families divided and rebuilt with scraps is a universal theme. Even if you come from a family never split by divorce, you definitely have something off about your family. (If you think there is nothing off about your family, you are probably the thing that is off about your family.) Through the complex narrative that Patchett slowly unfolds, you can find pieces of the story that make you feel at home – sometimes the chaotic, dysfunctional version of home that so often defines our family. It speaks to the excellence of Ann Patchett’s writing that she could develop little stories and relationships and build it into something greater than the sum of their parts. It is the way she describes seemingly innocuous parts of the scene that drew me in.  Describing a single mother’s struggles – “She was always arriving, always leaving, never there.” It’s an enormously complex struggle synthesized into one sentence. …

Bum Bum!

Ok so I totally agree with Katie – this is like an SVU episode. Which I love. Except that there is no Stabler. This book has no Stabler. So you can stop reading here. Just kidding – this book is not going rewire your whole literary life but it is fun, it is creepy, and it is a great autumn evening read. Brian Freeman hits the ground running from the first scene.  Probably the thing that he does, that I love the most, is that he keeps the story moving. There is very little dead time with the mystery and he manages to do that without making the scenario super convoluted. I mean its a crazy pants story but it isn’t muddled with characters or asides or distractors. Part of the downfall of the pace of the story is that not too many characters are well flushed out. Frankie – I thought she had to be a secret crazy psycho because she had so little of anything going on with her.  She had a weird …

A Voice

I struggled with this book. Not because the content scared me or made me uncomfortable. Not because it drew into question something I do not see or fail to acknowledge. But because what Coates tries to scratch the surface of is an extraordinarily complex network of invasive roots that both has strangled our collective culture and has consistently unearthed itself in a knotted fashion in places seemingly distanced from our country’s base. In a less metaphorical way, race is nearly always at the forefront of or a driving force of our societal (insert any word) – history, music, fashion, culture, vernacular. What is even more confusing is that we have created a narrative about race that in reality has so many dimensions and layers and colors but we have distilled it down into a simple dichotomy. What is black and what is white.   Coates is an astounding writer. He brings an eloquence, a voice, a personal experience that combined creates a feat of literature.  To improve our future, we must understand our past. That …