June Thunder

So June went by lightning fast, as I expected. Had good shows with Imagine Dragons and Dead and Company. Spent quality time with family and friends. Ran next to nothing for miles. But, the books! Thanks to not running (still) and all the travel I was able to get a lot of reading done…

Fiction:

  • Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson (EB & print)
  • Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams (EB & print)
  • Afterlife by Paul Monette (EB & print)
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason (AB)

Nonfiction:

  • Six Days of War by Michael Oren (print) – confessional: did not finish
  • Cactus Eaters by Dan White (print)
  • I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman (print)
  • Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn (AB)

Series continuations:

  • Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
  • Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame (EB & print)

Short Stories:

  • “Xingu” by Edith Wharton (EB)
  • “Verlie I Say Unto You” by Alice Adams (EB)
  • “Roses, Rhododendrons” by Alice Adams (EB)

For fun:

  • Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU by Julie Foudy

Choose to Matter

Foudy, Julie. Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU. Los Angeles: ESPNW, 2017.

Reason read: for a simple shot of encouragement.

I first learned of Foudy’s book while listening to the Dewey Decibel podcast from the American Library Association. Foudy was a guest on an episode last year. Yeah, yeah. I’m just now getting to it. But, Foudy’s book is inspirational (even if it’s meant for girls 40 years younger…sigh).
It’s all about finding your role in life as a leader. Not a cheerleader on the sidelines, but a leader starring in your own life. She uses her experiences as a Olympic soccer player to illustrate what it takes to win self confidence and drive. And illustrate, she does. The book is chock full of pretty pictures, beautiful photographs, colorful scribblings and whatnot. She interviews inspirational women like fellow teammate Mia Hamm, LeanIn.org’s founder Sheryl Sandberg, and even super-inspiring Afghan teenager Fahima Noori…just to name a few. She’ll even turn the mirror around and ask you to answer some thought-provoking questions about yourself to get the creative juices going. Yes, the language is geared towards teenage girls, like I said. The illustrations are colorful and childlike. But, but. But! The message is loud and clear. Anyone can become a leader. All you have to do is lose the fear. Sing outloud, be goofy and just go for it.


Cactus Eaters

White, Dan. The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind – and Almost Found Myself – On the Pacific Crest Trail. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.

Reason read: June is National Hiking Month.

Pure fun. From the comfort of my couch I took great pleasure in reading about Dan White’s adventures while hiking the 2,650+ mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. With his girlfriend Allison for companionship Dan’s account is in turn both funny and didactic. He can be snarky and scholarly in a single sentence. What starts out as an avoidance of the real world turns into a journey of self reflection and maybe, just maybe, a little growing up.
What makes Cactus such a pleasure to read is this is Dan’s account of the first time he hiked the PCT. He has no idea what he’s doing, despite reading up on it in the months leading up to the hike. He isn’t a seasoned through-hiker expertly navigating arid blazing hot deserts. He isn’t a blase professional warding off bear visits with a ho hum attitude. He is cocky in his naivete.

All time favorite line, “I could not stop the racing thoughts about Todd the Sasquatch somewhere out there, tearing up the foothills while exuding massive amounts of man sweat” (p 63).

Author fact: I could tell from the songs White enjoyed singing while on the PCT that he is about my age. An internet search revealed he was born just a few years before me.

Book trivia: The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and covers three countries and yet White doesn’t include a single map or photograph. To be fair, his camera didn’t have film in it for part of the trip and he did include one illustration of a journal entry.

Nancy said: Nancy dedicates 25% of the chapter to describing the plot of Cactus Eaters, but not much else.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hiking the (Fill in the Blank) Trail” (p 94). Confessional: this the second book I am reading from the chapter and I just now noticed while Pearl mentions the four major long-distance trails in the Americas, she only recommends four books. Three of them are about the PCT and the final one is about the Appalachian Trail. Why bring up the Continental Divide or the American Discovery Trail if you aren’t going to include a book or two about them? There certainly was room for a few more recommendations for the chapter.


I Dreamed of Africa

Gallman, Kuki. I Dreamed of Africa. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Reason read: Read in honor of Gallman’s birth month.

This has got to be one of the most heart wrenching yet uplifting books I have ever read about one woman’s life experiences in Africa. After divorcing her first husband Kuki marries the widower of a friend (Kuki survives the same car accident that her friend did not). Paolo convinces Kuki and her young son to move to Kenya, a far cry from the life of privilege in Italy. There, Kuki and her son, Emanuele Pirri-Gallman, fall in love with the land, the animals, and the people of Ol Ari Nyiro. Even after Paolo is killed in a tragic accident, Kuki is determined to stay in Africa. Pregnant with his child, Kuki buries Paolo at the ranch and continues to carry out their dreams. Three years later, even after her seventeen year old son dies of a lethal snake bite, Kuki is even more determined to stay on the ranch. She buries Ema next to Paolo and slowly, through grief and time, finds new purpose to her life.

Author fact: So. I was poking around the internet and found out just last year Kuki had been shot twice while trying to defend her land. What the what???

Book trivia: Gallman includes a bevy of beautiful photographs, mostly in color, of her world. Some of the pictures are drop dead gorgeous. Some of the pictures are drop dead tragic, as well.

Nancy said: Nancy included Kuki’s I Dreamed of Africa because it was one example of a writer writing about her life in Africa following World War II (p 76) although the war is never part of Kuki’s story.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Dreaming of Africa” (p 76).


Envoy from Mirror City

Frame, Janet. The Envoy From Mirror City. New York: George Braziller, 1985.
Frame, Janet. The Envoy From Mirror City. New York: George Braziller, 1985. http://archive.org/details/envoyfrommirrorc00fram

Reason read: to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

As a writer, Janet Frame branches out beyond New Zealand in Envoy from Mirror City. Personally, she finds her womanhood. I considered this reading timely because of the focus Frame gave to mental illness. (I was reading this before and after the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade.) I found it interesting that Frame got herself checked into a psychiatric facility so she could learn “the truth” about her illness and was somewhat disappointed to learn she was not considered schizophrenic. She had been using her illness as a shield against normalcy and everyday life. It was if naivete was catching up with her and she had to learn the coming of age ways of adulthood.

As an aside, there are a lot of chapters for such a short little book.

Lines I liked, “In my first foreign country I still wore the old clothes of prejudice” (p 5), “Nothing would make him change his mind while he was afraid” (p 16), “Strangely, I cherished my ignorance and never inquired” (p 67), and lastly, “Although I did not accept El Vivi’s ring, I did not reject him” (p 86).

Author fact: Frame had all of her books published by George Braziller.

Book trivia: Like the other volumes in Frame’s autobiography, there are no photographs in The Envoy from Mirror City.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Envoy.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kiwis Forever!: New Zealand in Print” (p 123).


So Long a Letter

Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. Translated by Modupe Bode-Thomas. Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2008.

Reason read: June is considered a wedding month. Read in honor of marriages of all kinds.

What does it mean to be a Senegalese woman living in a society dominated by male attitudes? Where does self worth and fulfillment fit in? Just because a society condones polygamy doesn’t mean every individual expects it, embraces it, or even wants to practice it. When Ramatoulaye’s husband of thirty plus years takes a new (much younger) wife  her emotions run the gamut. Baffled (Wasn’t she a good wife?). Stunned (They have twelve children together. Wasn’t she a good mother?). Embarrassed (What will the community think of her being replaced?). Insecure (Exactly what is her place in society now?). When Madou leaves her a widow, in a long letter to her friend Aissatou, Ramatoulaye recounts her life with Madou. She is, at times, reminiscent and even wistful for a life gone by. In the end, it is a new tragedy that sets Ramatoulaye on a new path of acceptance.

Lines that stayed with me, “My loins beat to the rhythm of childbirth” (p 2), “To warp a soul is an much a sacrilege as murder” (p 23), and “To overcome distress when it sits upon you demands strong will” (p 43).

Author fact: So Long a Letter was Mariama Ba’s first novel. It goes without saying it is semi-autobiographical.

Book trivia: So Long a Letter was the first African novel to win the Noma Award in 1980.

Nancy said: Not much. Pearl just describes the plot in one sentence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the early chapter called “African Literature in English” (p 16).


“Verlie I Say Unto You”

Adams, Alice. “Verlie I Say Unto You.” The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Reason read: June is short story month.

My first reaction to “Verlie” is to comment on the blindness of the privileged. Verlie is a maid in Todd family’s home. When news of Verlie’s husband’s death reaches the Todd household no one is sure how to tell Verlie. Their naive expectation of her reaction is one of grief. Never mind the fact Verlie and Horace haven’t seen each other in years. They can’t understand why she smiles at the news. It’s obvious they don’t know their employee even though she has been with them “forever.”

Author fact: Alice’s mother was also a writer, just not as accomplished as Alice.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).