December’s Comfort

December started with an overnight to New York City. This is going to sound strange coming from a girl from a small town in Maine, but I love, love, love the Big Apple. I love the grit and congestion. I love all the food choices (pizza!). Of course I also love the fact I can leave it!
We were there to see Natalie Merchant receive the John Lennon Real Love Award at Symphony Space. A fantastic night! Since we rattled down to the city via rails I was able to get a lot of reading done. Here is the proposed plan for the rest of the month:

Fiction:

  • The Aguero Sisters by Cristina Garcia (EB) – in honor of December being the best month to visit the Caribbean. I thought I had gotten rid of all the “best month to travel to. [location” books but I guess not.
  • A Long Way From Home by Connie Briscoe (EB) – in honor of Briscoe’s birth month being in December.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss – for Christmas.
  • Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne – in honor of the month Eeyore was born.

Nonfiction:

  • A People’s History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons (P) – in honor of the history of the Constitution. Yes, I know I read this some years ago, but I can’t find the review anywhere, so I am reading it again.
  • The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton (EB) – in honor of de Botton’s birth month being in December.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (EB) – in honor of Bryson’s borth month being in December.
  • Before the Deluge by Otto Friedrich (EB)- in honor of Berlin’s Tattoo Festival which takes place in December every year.
  • Saddest Pleasure by Moritz Thomsen – in honor of Brazil’s first emperor.

Series Continuations:

  • Without Fail by Lee Child (EB) – started in July.
  • The Master of Hestviken: In the Wilderness by Sigrid Undset (EB) – started in October.

Good Night Willie Lee

Walker, Alice. Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning. SanDiego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.

Reason read: Walker’s birth month is in February.

Here’s how I read Good Night Willie Lee. I inhaled a poem, held my breath to ponder the collection of words within it, and exhaled my understanding of the connection to life. One poem at a time. Like rhythmic yoga breaths; like steady waves upon the shore, I took my time with each one of them. Each poem deserved to be fully digested as such. For when you read Walker’s poetry you get the sense she died a little with each offering. A small offering of her soul mixed with the words.

Favorite line – from the poem called Confession: “through cracks in the conversation.” What a beautiful image.

Author fact: Walker also wrote Meridian and Possessing the Secret of Joy, two novels also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: the last poem in the book explains the title. I picture her father’s funeral.

Nancy said: Pearl said that Walker is best known for her award winning novel, The Color Purple, but “readers shouldn’t miss her poetry” (Book Lust p 2).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).


Well-Read Black Girl

Edim, Glory, ed. Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves. New York: Ballantine Books, 2018.

Reason read: as part of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, this was the November selection.

I am not a Black girl, nor am I a girl anymore. So. So what am I doing requesting to read and review Edim’s anthology, Well-Read Black Girl? I’ll tell you why. As a librarian, I want to be prepared for anyone of any color, of any age, of any self-identified gender, anyone at all to ask me for a book recommendation. Librarians, take note: Edim puts together a well-crafted and thoughtful list of books to read. Like Nancy Pearl in her Lust books, Edim compiles recommendations for all types of reading: genres like classics, fantasy, science fiction, plays and poetry; or themes like feminism, childhood, and friendship. There is a book for that. And that. That, too. Despite the wealth of information in Edim’s various lists I actually loved the essays even more. Women with varying careers and backgrounds and life experiences weigh in on what book meant the most to her or had a lasting impact while growing up. You hear from not just authors, journalists and playwrights but an activist, an actress, a producer; people outside the realm of putting pen to paper. It is a joy they share their thoughts with eloquence and grit. Their stories truly bring a deeper meaning to the books they mention. Their words make you want to go back and reread the stories with a different perspective.

Interesting overlap – I had just finished reading Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund when I got to Barbara Smith’s essay, “Go Tell It.” When talking about her own childhood Smith remembers Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Carol Denise McNair.


January Come Lately

I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
  • The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
  • A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
  • The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
  • Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
  • Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…

Series continuations:

  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.

For fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.

Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Gaines, Ernest J. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Read by Lynn Thigpen. New York: Recorded Books, 1994.

Reason read: February is Black History month

Miss Jane Pittman could be your great-grandmother, she is that real of a character. I’m sure listening to this on audio had something to do with that perception. When 100 year old Miss Pittman tells her life story to an unidentified high school history teacher it’s as if she is sitting in your living room. Beginning when she was ten years old and freed from slavery in the deep south, she recounts her journey to leave the Louisiana plantation she has known all her life. She is looking for the white abolitionist who gave her new “free” name. All she knows is that he is somewhere in Ohio. So, to Ohio she heads. Along the way she befriends an orphan boy and encounters seemingly overwhelming obstacles. But, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say, overcome these obstacles, she does. She raises the orphan boy as her own and even though she doesn’t make it out of Louisiana, forges a life for herself.
One point of observation is that while Miss Jane Pittman has lived a long life, you don’t hear her talk a lot about her own personal life. She would rather discuss the people around her and how they influenced her.

Quotes to quote, ‘”…America is for all of us.” he said,”and all of America is for all of us”‘ (p 115), “He wasn’t aiming to break the door in, he wanted to chop it down” (p 195), and my favorite, “And I will eat vanilla ice cream which I loves and enjoys” (p 219).

Author fact: I could have read this last month in honor of Gaines’s birth month. He was born in January.

Narrator funny: There were times when I was reminded of the actress Whoopie Goldberg when listening to Ms. Thigpen.

Book trivia: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was made into a movie. The release date was January 11th, 2005.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the early chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 11).


Birthday Books of February

Happy birthday to me & moi. This month we celebrate…everything. Here are the anticipated books:

Fiction:

  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J Gaines ~ in honor of February being Black History Month (AB).

Nonfiction:

  • An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale ~ Nancy Pearl said to read this after Puka-Puka. So I am.
  • Travels with Tangerine by Tim Macintosh ~ in honor of Feb being exploration month
  • Song of the Dodo: Island Biography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen ~ in honor of Quammen’s birth month
  • Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende ~ in honor of February being national science month.
  • Antarctic Destinies b y Stephanie Barcweski (also in honor of exploration month…it’s a long story).

Series (continuations):

  • Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons ~ in honor of January being Sci-Fi month
  • White Nights by Ann Cleeves ~ in honor of January being the month of Up Helly Aa fest in Shetland

For fun:

  • Wonder by RJ Palacio ~ ever since Natalie explained the premise of this book as being based on her song, “Wonder” I have wanted to read it.

Early Review:

  • Supposedly, the January book is Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone (LT spells it ‘Leonne’). Since half a dozen ER books have gone missing or  never mailed I’ll wait until it is in my hands before I announce I’m officially reading it.

 


Bebe’s By Golly Wow

Joe, Yolanda. Bebe’s By Golly Wow. New York: Dell Book, 1998.

Bebe (Beatrice Mae Thomas) is a single woman in her 40s looking for love. Isaac Sizemore is divorced firefighter father also looking for love. Only problem is Dashay Sizemore, Isaac’s thirteen year old sass of a daughter. This teenager has abandonment issues and expresses she not ready for mom to be replaced (despite the fact mom deserted the family) through rap songs. An interesting love triangle is in the works. This could get messy. Only, it doesn’t. Not really. This could be a story you see on the Hallmark Channel; something Lifetime for Women. It’s ending is predictable and sweet and the drama (violence, racism, addiction) along the way is quickly extinguished. Written in short, choppy sentences, this is a quick yet delightful read.

My only criticism? The inclusion of Sandra Mae Atkins, Bebe’s best friend, as a voice. Sandy’s side of the story seemed to pad the book for length. She didn’t have much to do with the relationship between Bebe and Isaac. For balance, Joe could have included L.A.’s gambling addiction from his point out view. That way, both friends of the couple shared their supporting stories.

Quotes I liked, “I’d rather put money between my knees and pee on it than give it away to a man I aint married to” (p 32), “It was stone-to-the-bone ugly time” (p 154), and “He left carrying a big sack of mad on his back” (p 233).

Okay. I’ll admit it. I didn’t understand the title until the very end.

Confessional – I did it again. I went and read reviews before even cracking open a page. Shame on me. In my own defense I did it to make sure I wasn’t reading a series out of order (that’s been happening to me a lot). As it turns out, Bebe is a repeat character, first introduced in He Said, She Said. Here’s the ironic thing. I thought I had already read He Said, She Said so I went ahead and ordered Bebe’s. Turns out, I haven’t read He Said but I’ve decided to read them out of order anyway. But, back to my mistake. Too many people said Bebe’s character was shallow and childish and unrealistic. And there was a problem with overuse of slang. Duly noted, but I tried not to let it influence me.

Reason read: Yolanda Joe was born in the month of March.

Author fact: Yolanda Joe also wrote He Said, She Said which is also on my list.

Book trivia: The Chicago Tribune called Bebe’s By Golly Wow “sassy.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say” (p 12).