Lobster Coast

Woodard, Colin. Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier. New York: Viking, 2004.

Reason read: the Lobster Festival is usually held the first week in August in Rockland, Maine. Kisa and I had the pleasure of attending the festival the same year Zoe was selling her calendar. To add to the personal element of this, Zoe and I attended the same school.

To live in Maine is to subscribe and ultimately surrender to a certain way of life. It is a proud life; an independent life. Take no grief from anyone and never ask for help. As they like to say, Mainers have grit.
Woodard is redundant in places and seems to skip around some, but for the most part his book, Lobster Coast is well researched and is an accurate portrayal of a way of life. It is a thoroughly engaging historical look back at Maine’s fierce independence. From the very beginning there has been a strong distrust of strangers, well entrenched prejudices against “newcomers” and non-natives.

Confessional: It is weird to read about my community, as in the physical place and the actual people who call Monhegan home. I read the first chapter of Lobster Coast with a smirk brought on by bias. Most of the names mentioned have been in my life since I first arrived on Monhegan as a five year old child. I know much of what Woodard speaks of intimately. The places haven’t changed much. Monhegan House, Black Duck, Shining Sails, the Museum, just to name a few. And the people…! I won’t name names but someone gave me a spanking right there on Fish Beach when they caught me and my best friend trying to start a bonfire. I think I was six. Someone else tried to teach me gymnastics, and (at the tender age of ten), all I could do was stare at the dark and curly pubic hairs escaping from her too-tight leotard. Someone else handed me my first beer…

Author fact: Woodard has contributed to The Chronicle of Higher Education and was born and raised in Maine.

Book trivia: Sadly, there are no photographs in Lobster Coast.

Nancy said: Pearl named Lobster Coast as one “reader-friendly micro-histories of the lobster industry” (Book Lust To Go p 136). I would say it is more of a history of the state of Maine, with a focus on lobstering.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.

Reason read: Doyle died in July. Read in his memory.

If you were to read the Complete Sherlock Holmes in chronological order, you would not start with the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The short stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, twelve in all, start after Holmes and Watson have gone their separate ways and are no longer sharing rooms of a flat together. Watson is by this time married with a house of his own while Holmes is still on Baker Street. One constant that remains throughout all the stories is Holmes’s ability to confuse people with his keen sense of observation. “How could you know that?” is a constant refrain. Another constant is that all of the stories are told in first person from Watson’s point of view.

Short stories:

  • “Scandal in Bohemia” – a Duke and heir King is blackmailed by an actress. Sherlock, with the help of Holmes, attempts to end the threat but the woman outsmarts them.
  • “Red-Headed League” – what do you get when you mix a redhead, an Encyclopedia, a bank, and a scam? Answer: a Sherlock Holmes mystery, of course!
  • “A Case of Identity” – How far will a man go to keep his stepdaughter from marrying?
  • “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” – Did a man really murder his father or is there more going on?
  • “The Five Orange Pips” – a curse has come down through the generations, terrorizing a family.
  • “The Man with the Twisted Lip” – This was my favorite. A man goes missing and is believed to be dead while his wife has faith he is alive.
  • “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” – Who stole this precious jewel?
  • “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” – another crazy story about a father not wanting his daughters to marry because of losing the inheritance.
  • “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” – is it a spoiler to say this is one story where the criminals get away?
  • “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” – Just what the title says, a guy does the right thing.
  • “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” – family devotion illustrated with a coronet.
  • “The Adventure of the Copper Beaches” – a really interesting story about trying to thwart a wedding (another common theme for Sherlock).

Author fact: rumor has it, Sherlock Holmes is somewhat modeled after Dr. Joseph Bell, a professor of Dolye’s at Edinburgh University.

Book trivia: Despite publishing two novels previously, Doyle’s career didn’t take off until he started writing short stories. The twelve listed above were published together in 1892.

Nancy said: Pearl included the Complete Sherlock Holmes in a list of private-eye mysteries.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the really long chapter called “I love a Mystery” (p 117).


The Girl Who Played with Fire

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Played with Fire. New York: Vintage, 2011.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July in honor of the Swedish festivals.

Here is the great thing about the continuation of Larsson’s “The Girl…” series. He doesn’t spend a lot of time recounting what happened in the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is as if he depends on you to immediately pick up the next book in the series order to keep the drama going at breakneck speed. Larsson does fill you in wherever necessary for the sake of plot flow; and to catch you up in case you have forgotten some small detail. How he knows that. I don’t know. For the most part, The Girl Who Played with Fire is its own story in and of itself.
Lisbeth Salander is “growing up” before our eyes. You cannot help but like this tough, odd woman-child. She starts removing tattoos and piercings, not because she wants to change her identity (although those simple changes and breast implants alter her previously recognizable look considerably), but rather because she is changing internally. She is starting to feel things which may or may not be a good thing. After being away from Sweden from a year she comes home which definitely is not a good thing. I won’t go into the details, but Lisbeth finds herself accused of a triple murder which is a brilliant move on Larsson’s part. This allows for Lisbeth’s past to be revealed under intense scrutiny. Many questions about Lisbeth’s character come to light.
Meanwhile, Salander’s former flame, Mikael Blomkrist, is busy as editor back at Millennium. Mikael continues to be the ladies’s man, this time starting a relationship with the very woman he was asked to find in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Considering how that book ended, this may or not be a good thing as well.

Author fact: Stieg’s given first name is Karl.

Book trivia: The Girl Who Played with Fire was made into a Swedish film (2009) and a television miniseries (2010).

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Girl Who Played with Fire.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It.” (p 222).


Wild Girl

Skelton, Helen. Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures.

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

The premise of Wild Girl is to inspire young women (or more accurately, young girls) to get outside and have grand adventures. The subtitle would have you believe this is a guide to teach girls exactly that, how to have those big adventures albeit on a much smaller scale than Skelton’s. (Make sure to ask your parents, she advises.) Upon closer inspection, Wild Girl reminded me of FaceBook in brag book form. It seems to be more of an illustrated memoir about Ms. Skelton’s own epic experiences, complete with several smiling photos in every chapter. There is no doubt she is an A type woman: athletic, attractive, adventurous, amusing, ambition, and without a doubt, aspiring. For every chapter (focused on a single event across the globe) there are eighteen to twenty pages dedicated to Skelton: where she went (South Pole, for example), what sport she performed (snowboard, kite skiing, snow biking), how long she was gone, the temperatures and weather she experienced in each region, what she packed for gear, how she prepared and/or trained, a snippet of a diary, really cute illustrations, and last but not least, several photographs of her performing her wild adventure. Only two pages are reserved for giving girls ideas or advice about how to have their own “epic” adventure (like having a snowball fight). The subtitle should have been how to inspire incredible outdoor adventures. Dream big! If I can do it, you can too!
Confessional: The coolest part of Skelton’s book is the two pages in each chapter dedicated to women who made names for themselves doing similar adventures. They get a mini biography and an illustration of their likeness.

Book trivia: There are well over fifty photographs of Helen in this slim book. The final printing will have them all in color! Very cool.


Lisey’s Story

King, Stephen. Lisey’s Story: a Novel. New York: Scribner, 2006.

Reason read: in honor of going to Maine for two weeks I decided to read a Maine author. Everyone knows Stephen King.

Many view this work of Stephen King’s as a “different” kind of horror story, and while I found that to be true, it didn’t hook me the way other King stories have. There was a great deal of terminology repetition that should have kept me questioning what it all meant, but really didn’t (constant reference to blood-bools, smucking, smuckup, strapping it on, SOWISA, to name a few…).
Widow Lisey Landon has a stalker who is after her dead husband’s papers. As a well known and prize winning author, his unpublished manuscripts could be worth a fortune. We don’t know how Scott died, but we do know he survived an assassination attempt and Lisey has other memories too terrible to recall. Her horrible thoughts are repeatedly cut off in mid-sentence, a tactic designed to keep the reader in suspense, but ultimately ended up annoying this particular reader. In the winter of 1996 something happened; something that was too terrible to conjure completely. Lisey stops herself from thinking through her memory.
It is true that damaged people seek out other damaged people to form a warped kind of kinship. It is only natural that Scott, a product of unspeakable abuse and horror, should gravitate towards Lisey whose own sister practices self-mutilation (and ultimately falls into a catatonic state). Lisey sees all the warning signs before marrying Scott but decides to ignore them. The good moments far outweigh the bad. Isn’t that always the way in abusive relationships?
King is an expert at hinting at danger to come. There is always something ominous lurking around the corner, just out of sight. Hints, whispers, winking in the dark like strands of smoke from an arson’s fire…

Author fact: King said this is one of his favorites and always pictured it as a television series. Rumor has it, a network is doing just that.

Book trivia: King always wanted to make Lisey’s Story into a serial television show. It was made into a mimi series starring Julianne Moore.

Nancy said: Pearl says she “frequently suggest[s]” Lisey’s Story as a horror book that isn’t too horrible. She also claims it is a good book for book groups, as well (Book Lust To Go p 136).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


Moby Dick

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Illustrated by Joseph Ciardiello. New York: Reader’s Digest, 1989.

Reason read: August is the month to be by the sea.

Who doesn’t know the story of Captain Ahab and his obsessive hunt for the albino whale he calls Moby Dick?
What makes Moby Dick such an iconic story is Ishmael and his keen observations, not just of monomaniacal Captain Ahab, but of the entire crew of the Peaquod and the everlasting mythology surrounding whales. While his voice changes throughout the narrative, he remains the iconic character driving the story. There is a rage in Ahab that is mirrored in Ishmael. There is also a lack of faith in Ishmael that is mirrored in Ahab. While there is an adventure plot, Moby Dick also has a mix of religion (sermon of Jonah and the Whale); the study of the color white as it relates to mountains, architecture, and of course, inhabitants of the ocean, whales and sharks; a lecture of the different types of whales, including the narwhal. Additionally, Moby Dick offers didactic lectures on a variety of subjects: art, food, religion, slavery. [As an aside, although it is a realistic exchange between the cook, Fleece, and sailor Stubb, it made me uncomfortable.]

Quotes to quote, “It’s only his outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin (p 38), “Yes, as anyone knows, meditation and water are wedding forever” (p 24), and “All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven may have mercy on us all…for we are somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending” (p 89).

Author fact: it is sad to think that Herman Melville did not find success as a writer until after death.

Book trivia: The illustrations by Joseph Ciardiello are pretty cool.

Nancy said: Pearl said the opening line to Moby Dick slipped her mind and that is why it wasn’t included in her first book, Book Lust.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lines that Linger, Sentences that Stick” (p 140). As an aside, the title is hyphenated as Moby-Dick in the index while my copies (print and audio) are not. As another aside, I have to argue with the inclusion of Moby Dick in this chapter. If another lesser book started off “Call me Harold” would it have been included? Probably not. What makes “Call me Ishmael” is not the opening line itself, but the epic story that follows. Those three words are only the gateway to an unforgettable and insane adventure.


Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. New York: Dial Press, 2008.

Reason read: Poland usually celebrates a music festival in August. Probably not this year. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society does not take place in Poland, nor has anything to do with Poland.

Epistolary novels are always fun to read. The trick for the author is to make each letter-writer’s voice different. I would like to imagine Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, Annie Barrows writing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by writing back and forth to each other because the exchanges are very well done. However, I know that Shaffer asked Barrows to assist in finishing the book when she became ill.
So, for the plot: Imagine it is January 1946. The Second Great War has come to a close and everyone is dealing with the aftermath, especially England. London writer and biographer Juliet Ashton receives a letter out of the blue from a man in the Channel Islands. He is a complete stranger but has read Ashton’s article on Charles Lamb. Of course Ashton writes back as soon as she hears the gentleman is a member of the curious society called the Guernsey and Potato Peel on the island of Guernsey. Soon Ashton gets the idea to write a piece about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It all started with an illegal roast pig supper…What follows is not your typical romance or even your typical historical novel about the German occupation during World War II, but a strange and wonderful combination of the two.

Best quote to quote, “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books” (p 53).

Author(s) facts: Mary Ann Shaffer was a librarian and an editor who died in 2008. Annie Barrows is Shaffer’s niece.

Book trivia: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was a New York Times Bestseller.

Nancy said: In the chapter “Guernsey: History in Fiction” Pearl called Shaffer’s book “excellent” (p 90), but in “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181), Pearl compared another book to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

BookLust Twist: a double mention in Book Lust To Go. First, in the chapter called simply “Guernsey: History in Fiction” (p 90), and then in the chapter called “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181). Disclaimer: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society has nothing to do with Poland and should not be mentioned in “Polish Your Polish.” It’s another one of those “if you like this book, then you will love this book” mentions.


Florence Nightingale

Bostridge, Mark. Florence Nightingale: the Making of an Icon. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Reason read: Florence Nightingale passed in the month of August. Read in her memory.

I read this biography in the hopes of shedding the cliche Florence Nightingale has inadvertently become in my mind. The very name conjures up a saintly figure of epic kindness. A woman with angel wings and endless patience. Someone with a glowing halo and endless caring calm. I wanted Bostridge’s biography to turn an otherwise glossy icon into flesh and bone with faults and no-so-saintly feelings. It turns out, the public did a lot to add to the “lady with the lamp” mythology for when the desperate attach an attribute like hope to a person, the image becomes angelic. Such was the desperation of soldiers during the Crimean War. The lamp Nightingale often carried beat back the darkness (and encroaching fear of death) with its soothing soft glow. Elizabeth Gaskell called her a saint. John Davies implied she was a goddess with a magic touch.
Tidbits of interesting not-so-saintly information I enjoyed learning: from an early age Nightingale wanted to care for the sick. She was not shy about voicing her criticism regarding hospital conditions: defective ventilation and horrid sanitation practices. She didn’t get along well with others as her persistence for improved conditions irked administrators far and wide. Through and despite all that, like a modern day celebrity craze, there was a insatiable demand for her likeness. Portraits of her cropped up everywhere. People were writing music about her. By 1855 people were naming boats and buildings after her.
Trivial details: Nightingale traveled through Egypt to Cairo with budding author Gustave Flaubert by sheer coincidence. She made Elizabeth Gaskell’s acquaintance. She had a sister who lost her identity in the shadow of Florence’s greatness. Florence made unusual animals her pets, a cicada and and owl.
There is no doubt Florence Nightingale: the Making of an Icon is the result of meticulous research.

When I am dead and gone will people remember me as someone in a “righteous rage to get things done” like Florence Nightingale was remembered? I just love that image of her.

Author fact: Bostridge also wrote Vera Brittain and the First World War: the Story of Testament of Truth, which is not on my Challenge list, but I am reading Vera Brittain’s Testament books.

Book trivia: Florence Nightingale is full of black and white illustrations and photography.

Nancy said: Pearl called Florence Nightingale a really good biography.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Egypt” (p 75). Florence Nightingale should not be included in this chapter because it is not about Egypt, the majority of the biography does not take place in Egypt, nor is Egypt important to the life of Florence.


My Life on the Line

O’Callaghan, Ryan with Cyd Zeigler. My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me. and Ended Up Saving My Life. Brooklyn, New York: Edge of Sports, 2019.

Reason read: as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.

When I requested My Life on the Line I was not prepared to have my heart broken. This is the simple story of an NFL football player trying to conceal his true self throughout his sports career. For twenty eight long years he had a secret. Hiding behind anything and everything to make himself look “manly” Ryan O’Callahan was in constant fear of being outted as a homosexual. No one could find out. No one. Tough language, big trucks, country music, guzzling beer, deer hunting, drugs, and bullying were all part of the smoke and mirrors game; all tactics O’Callaghan used so no one could accuse him of even a hint of being gay. His perception was a homosexual man wouldn’t use foul language. A gay man wouldn’t drive a big truck or take drugs and he certainly wouldn’t listen to Garth Brooks! At the center of it all was being a professional football player. For as long as O’Callaghan was playing this manly game he reasoned he could stay alive. Without football he was convinced he couldn’t hide; being exposed meant certain death at his own hand. Even when people close to him started to suspect, O’Callaghan would emphatically deny it, thinking the NFL was his perfect cover.
Then came the injuries and the surgeries and the pain, one after another like unrelenting sea surge. The more O’Callaghan damaged his body the faster his addiction to pain killers grew. He had easy access to prescriptions and at one point was using from nine different doctors. The prospect of playing football professionally hung in the balance as his drug use spiraled out of control and like all dangerous games, it had to come to an end sooner or later.

An added bonus to O’Callaghan’s story was learning a little more about NFL quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. His story was a little disappointing…


Strong Motion

Franzen, Jonathan. Strong Motion. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992.

Reason read: Franzen’s birth month is August.

I will say right off the bat that I did not particularly enjoy Strong Motion. There were chapters I definitely liked better than others. Had the plot been reduced to two or three story lines I think I would have liked it more. As it was, there was a lot going on in Strong Motion and I found myself bogged down by the verbose language and getting distracted very easily. The beginning of the book starts off simple enough. Louis Holland arrives in Boston right before a series of earthquakes start plaguing eastern Massachusetts. The first quake kills his wealthy grandmother, Rita Kernaghan, in a freak accident while no one else is even injured. From the moment you meet Louis you sense there is something off-centered or even dangerous about him. You don’t know whether to like him or not. He becomes fixated on his grandmother’s inheritance of twenty two million dollars. A battle ensues between him and his parents and sister for control of the money. In the meanwhile he has to balance his attraction to a Harvard seismologist studying the tremors that rock the eastern side of Massachusetts. Renee Seitchek knows the earthquakes are more than just a natural phenomenon (since when has the eastern seaboard been a hotbed for shifting earth?) and soon her focus is on Sweeting-Aldren, a petrochemical and weapons manufacturer, as the culprit. Is it possible they drilled holes deep enough to bury toxic waste causing Teutonic plates to collide? Throw in feminist issues, pro-life controversies, capitalist greed, attempted murder and environmental degradation and you have the whole of Strong Motion. Amidst apocalyptic chaos of epic proportions the Red Sox are in first place…

Author fact: Frazen demonstrates his knowledge of Massachusetts by carelessly tossing out names of towns like Waltham and Somerville.

Book trivia: Strong Motion is Franzen’s second novel.

Nancy said: Pearl called Strong Motion an excellent pomo book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Postmodern Condition” (p 190).


Secret Life of Lobsters

Corson, Trevor. The Secret Life of Lobsters. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.

Reason read: Rockland, Maine holds a Lobster Festival every year during the first week of August. I have been once.

I originally put off reading The Secret Life of Lobsters thinking it was going to be bogged down with dry research statistics. Instead, I found a warm, and humorous yet fact-filled account of not only the life of lobsters but of the men who make their livelihood trying to catch them, Corson included. Chapters alternate between scientists and their research and lobstermen of Little Cranberry Island, Maine, and their struggle to farm the sea. There were things I knew (the cod is the biggest natural predator of lobsters and lobster is loaded with sodium) and lots more I didn’t know, like there are 52 species of Crustacea and the sex life of a lobster is brutal!

Confessional: I grew up eating lobster like it was chicken. Every so often my father would barter welding services for a few pounds of lobster for “his girls” while he himself couldn’t touch the stuff (allergic), so the entire time I was reading The Secret Life of Lobsters I was willing myself to not make comparisons to Monhegan’s way of life.

Quotes I just had to quote, “The problem was that the male lobster appeared not to have a penis” (p 46), and “Quite possibly, lobsters were sensing each other and sending signals – “I beat you up last night, remember?” or “Would you liketo mate with me, I’m about to undress?” – by pissing in each other’s faces” (p 196).

Author fact: Corson is a marine biologist and a third generation lobersterman so he knows his stuff!

Book trivia: The Secret Life of Lobsters does not contain any photographs or maps. I was bummed not to see the latter. It would have been fun to track some of the places Corson mentioned.

Nancy said: Pearl says Secret Life of Lobsters is about “what’s known, and not, about the lobster…” (Book Lust To Go p 135).

BookLust Twist: from book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


Foundation’s Edge

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation’s Edge. New York: Doubleday, 1982.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

Golan Trevize is convinced the second Foundation is controlling events on the planet Terminus. Instead of having him imprisoned or executed for treason, Mayor Harla Branno sends him on a quest – find the second Foundation if you are so convinced it exists. I dare you. For she too, secretly thinks there is a second Foundation but can’t say it out loud. Trevize simply must find out for her so the catch is he cannot return until he finds evidence one way or another. To help him with this quest Trevize is assigned a partner, professor of Ancient History, Janor Pelorat. Only Pelorat has another motive. He wants to discover the mythical planet of Earth…which sets up the next book in the series. Earth has been removed from the archives of the Galatic Library on Trantor.
Trevize and Pelorat discover the second Foundation does exist on the planet Trantor. Turns out, Trantor has similar fears about the first Foundation. So the battle of misconceptions starts.

Author fact: Asimov died in Brooklyn, New York.

Book trivia: Foundation’s Edge was Asimov’s first book to become a New York Times best seller. It also won a Hugo and Locus Award.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Foundation’s Edge.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Bronx Masquerade

Grimes, Nikki. Bronx Masquerade. New York: Dial Books, 2002.

Reason read: August is the time of year when parents start thinking about sending their kids back to school. Bronx Masquerade takes place in high school.

Eighteen teenagers from all walks of life use poetry to tell it like it is. In the form of a poetry slam each student in Mr. Ward’s class gets an opportunity to share a piece of him or herself. Not all are eager for the spotlight, but the more students stand up and share, the more the others get to thinking this poetry thing isn’t such a bad idea.

  • Lupa Algann – her big sister had a baby so she wants one.
  • Janelle Battle – has a crush on Devon; has a weight problem she is self- conscious about.
  • Judianne Alexander – she sells herself short; has a crush on Tyrone.
  • Leslie Lucas – lost her mom at a young age.
  • Gloria Martinez – she had a baby while still a sophomore in high school; baby daddy wants nothing to do with the child.
  • Diondra Jordan – a shy artist.
  • Sheila Gamberoni – wants to be more “ethnic”so she asks to change her name in class. Even though she is Italian heritage she has white skin.
  • Raul Ramirez – An artist with ambition.
  • Amy Moscowitz – an atheist who comes from a Jewish family
  • Tyrone Bittings – closest character to a protagonist the story has. He responds to every poem and his perceptions of his classmates. He is convinced he is going to die young if the color of his skin has anything to say about it.
  • Devon Hope – a basketball player.
  • Wesley “Bad Boy” Boone – tough guy who loves music.
  • Raynard Patterson – cousin to Sterling.
  • Darien Lopez – Puerto Rican boy trying to break out of the stereotypical mold.
  • Chankara Troupe – comes from an abusive home.
  • Others: Tanisha, Steve, Sterling, and Porscha

All of these students pull courage from their classmates and try it on for themselves. One by one they are pulled to the front of the classroom to stand up strong. By doing so they reveal glimpses of lives their classmates knew nothing about.
Mr. Ward’s Open Mike class gains momentum when a reporter gets wind of the class and makes a visit.
Best surprise: Grimes features real life poet Pedro Pietri.

Quotes I had to quote, “Knees knocking like a skeleton on Halloween, embarrassment bleaching my black cheeks red, eyes stupid to the page in front of me” (p 4). If that doesn’t describe nerves, I don’t know what!
Here’s another – “I try on my life like a dress and it doesn’t fit” (p 110). Last one, “The truth of his words pinned me to the wall” (p 135).

Author fact: Grimes also wrote Jazmin’s Notebook which won a Coretta Scott King Honor award.

Book trivia: the copy I read was the ten year re-release with a new introduction by the author.

Nancy said: Pearl indicated Bronx Masquerade was good for boys and girls.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 24).


Antonia Saw the Oryx First

Thomas, Maria. Antonia Saw the Oryx First. New York: Soho, 1987.

Reason read: August is Friendship Month.

Antonia Redmond and Esther Moro have an interesting relationship as they couldn’t be anymore different from one another. Antonia, an educated white woman, was born to American parents but has lived in Dar es Salaam, Africa nearly all of her life. As a doctor, she has been schooled in traditional modern medicine. Meanwhile, Esther Moro is on the other end of the spectrum as a woman who sells her body to make ends meet. “She knows only men” as the band The Horseflies would say. After a particularly violent encounter with a Greek fisherman Esther and Antonia meet as patient and doctor. At first Esther wants Antonia to teach her the rules of modern medicine, but soon discovers she has the power to heal within her already. Esther listens to her culture’s whisperings of witchcraft, ancient legends, and curses.

Author fact: Maria Thomas was a pen name for Roberta Worrick. She died in a plane crash was she was only 47 years old.

Book trivia: Two pieces of trivia, actually. Antonia Saw the Oryx First was Thomas’s first novel. She also wrote African Visas which is on my Challenge list for May 2031.

Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t say anything specific about the book or the author; just describes the plot a little.

BookLust Twist: Twice from Book Lust. Once in the chapter called “African Colonialism: Fiction” (p 14) and also in the Book Lust chapter “Women’s Friendships” (p 247).


American Chica

Arana, Marie. American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood. New York: Dial Press, 2001.

Reason read: August is called the selfish month by some. Nancy Pearl called her autobiography chapter in More Book Lust “Me, Me, Me” which made me think to read American Chica in August.

Marie Arana grew up in an intercultural family with a South American father born in Peru, and a North American mother. Her parents met in Boston, Massachusetts of all places. This all sounds exotic and fun, but it wasn’t always easy for Arana to know how to fit in on either side of the cultural divide.
The very first sentence of American Chica sets the entire tone of Arana’s memoir, “The corridors of my skull are haunted” (p 5). Indeed, Arana’s family history hides ghosts and her story prods proverbial skeletons out of closets. I won’t give away the details but there was one moment in Arana’s story that had me holding my breath. She has a brush with impropriety that is tinged with the guilty question of did I bring this on myself? Is it somehow my fault? I could relate.The most poignant pieces of Arana’s writing was when she was remembering her innocence; the times when prejudice didn’t darken her childhood.

Other lines I liked, “It is more than a simple resentment, less than an all-out war” (p 63).

Author fact: According to the back flap of American Chica, Arana served on the board of directors of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Book Critics Circle.

Book trivia: Arana’s memoir does not include any photographs except a family portrait in the beginning.

Nancy said: Pearl called American Chica “a beautifully written memoir” (More Book Lust p 167).

BookLust Twist: As mentioned earlier, from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Me, Me, Me: Autobiographies” (p 167).