All posts tagged: book review

All of the Things…

The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain definitely had all of the components of a beach read. There was death and loss, marriages, childhood friendships, engagements, broken engagements, an epidemic, an unplanned pregnancy, a world war, family feuds, long lost loves, issues of racism, sexism, classism, sexual assault, family secrets, gas rationing fraud, a car accident and more death, some mysticism and spirituality thrown in. This book had all of the things. And honestly it left me a little dizzy. The protagonist Tess DeMello was born and raised a good Catholic girl from Baltimore. She was engaged to be married to her childhood sweetheart when one “mistake” changes everything. Although what the book blurb describes as a mistake I’d describe as sexual assault. I don’t consider this a spoiler since it happens within the first 30 pages of the book… Tess gets uncharacteristically drunk during a night out with her best friend Gina. They meet two strangers and join them for drinks under Gina’s encouragement. Tess and one of the men, Henry, exchange almost no words during …

High Drama, Low Believability

Our theme for August is “Beach Read,” and while The Stolen Marriage may not be a typical beach read, it certainly ticks the “Beach Read” boxes of being quick, and with quite a high mix of drama. Chamberlain certainly didn’t hold back in terms of the dramatic themes in The Stolen Marriage. Discussing the book with the other “Katherines,” I kept finding myself sliding into a Stefon-like description (“This book has everything – the polio epidemic, death, World War II, abandonment, abortion, adultery…” and I’ll stop there even though I could easily tick off 10-15 more things, but there would be major spoilers). In many ways, it felt like every chapter was also the introduction of another new element (SPOILER ALERT: “…mediums, secret relationships, arson…”). And while that kind of drama can certainly be entertaining and engrossing, it can also be incredibly overwhelming and unbelievable. For all of these terrible things to happen to one person in the span of a year!? Well, the book might as well have been about 2020. It was also …

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. …

In Their Words

In school I learned about enslaved Africans. I learned how millions of men, women and children were kidnapped from Africa, shipped to America, and lived and died enslaved in this country. But I learned of these stories from whitewashed history curriculums. I had never read of slavery from the words of a person enslaved. And author Zora Neale Hurston takes such care and commitment in recording Kossola’s story. I am thankful she shared her talents, her dedication, and for Kossula’s strength in sharing his life. There’s a kind of tragic poetry to the words Kossula shares, and I felt honored to be let into his story through Barracoon. This book is a rare and important one. And I don’t throw that term around loosely. Barracoon is a must read. It’s our history, and it’s past time we start centering more voices like these. Hurston understood in 1927 even better than we do now how important it is to hear our stories through the voices of those who experienced them. And with that, I’ll stop talking. …

An Opportunity to #Listen

I started and finished Barracoon in just under four days. I honestly don’t know how to write this review. Full disclosure, book reviews aren’t my forte in general (which you may have figured out if you’ve read any of my others). However, reviewing Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon feels strange. She was brilliant, and scholars and biographers have studied her and her work. I don’t have anything to add there. The book is Kissola’s recollection of his life in Africa, being enslaved, and then being free from enslavement. There is no room to judge the quality of the narrative, because it’s simply his life – we can’t ask that it be anything it’s not.  Therefore, I feel as though I can only speak to my experience reading it. Reading Barracoon at this particular moment feels appropriate. Reminding, or for some people learning, about the experience of enslaved people is an important piece in acknowledging our history and seeking to better our present. My heart broke for Kissola and the pain and suffering he had to endure, …

Sorry, Not Sorry

Years before she published Dear Girls, Ali Wong aired a stand-up special on Netflix called Baby Cobra. She was pregnant with her first during filming, and I was just barely coming out of the fog of having two babies within about a year of each other. I couldn’t have been more primed to find everything she referenced all too familiar and laugh-out-loud hilarious. And I don’t take issue with her raw and crude brand of humor. Parenting is raw and crude, so it fits. Needless-to-say, when I heard about Dear Girls I was all in. Each chapter is a letter to her daughters Mari and Nikki where she shares different embarrassing, challenging, rewarding, gross, triumphant stories. I love that she is completely unfiltered in sharing the lessons she’s learned the hard way, and trying to share more of herself. Parents often project onto children so much of what we hope for them and how we see them, but we rarely share much of our own histories, vulnerabilities or mistakes. But Wong is completely unafraid of …

I Should Write More Letters…

Full disclosure: I finished Ali Wong’s Dear Girls about three weeks ago. I have also had a few glasses of wine tonight. Finally, the world is crazy and I can barely string two coherent thoughts together, let along write a poignant and thoughtful book review (my husband and I regularly have conversations that go like this: Me: “Did you, um, wait, when, um, did they, um, what’s the, um… do you know what I mean?” Him: “Yeah, but, if we, well.” and so on) . But here goes! I loved Dear Girls. It was a perfect and much-needed break from the reality we are living right now. At times it was touching, at times it was thoughtful, but mostly, it was just true and relatable, and hilarious. Even when the stories were so far from my own personal experience that I couldn’t even fathom their reality, it was relatable. And that’s a feat. At times I thought there is definitely a specific audience for this book. Like, maybe you need to be a mother, or a wife, or Asian, …

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 …