Brooks, Geraldine. Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over. Thorndike, Maine: Thorndike Press, 1998.
Reason read: International Reading Day is on September 8th.
Brooks started writing to pen pals when she was ten years old. [As an aside, I think I was around the same age when I formed my letter-writing habit.] Finding all of Brooks’s pen pal letters prompted her to wonder if she could find their authors some thirty some odd years later. Where were these forty-something year olds? Who were they now as adults and what lives were they living? Before she launches on her journey to find lost relations, Brooks spends some time remembering her own childhood and how each pen pal played a part in it. As a kid she yearned to get away from boring Australia with its lack of culture and panache. As a good girl, she recalls her fear of her father’s lack of participation in Catholic worship and how it might send him to hell and yet she herself wanted to be a rebel; “to kiss boys, take drugs, be hauled by the hair into a police van at an antiwar protest” (p 78). She remembers wanting to expand her religious horizons with the letters she would write and receive. Those pen pals would bring Brooks full circle by reminding her of her roots and just how far she has come as an adult.
Quote I liked, “We have grown older together, trapped in the aspic of our age gap” (p 59) and “It’s unfortunate to arrive at an Arab summit in Casablanca only to find that your underwear is touring sub-Saharan Africa without you” (p 142).
Author fact: According to Brooks’s memoir, she had a budding acting career early in life.
Book trivia: Brooks includes touching photographs of her family as well as the pen pals who shaped her life.
Nancy said: Pearl mentioned an interview with Brooks. I had to ask the Seattle Channel if they could rerelease the video because it was over ten years old. I am happy to say they consented and even though the interview didn’t mention Foreign Correspondence I enjoyed it very much. As an aside, the interview focused on People of the Book (not on my list).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Australia, the Land of Oz” (p 26).
It feels like it’s still summer. Never mind the nights are getting somewhat cooler. Never mind that we are back in school. Never mind there is a seasonal hurricane ripping its way up the eastern seaboard. Never mind all that. I’m still in summer mode. I started the month off by a good 3.24 run. Yes!
Here are the books planned for the month:
- The Shining by Stephen King – in honor of King’s birth month.
- In the City of Fear by Ward Just – in honor of Just’s birth month.
- Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan by David Chadwick – in honor of September being Respect for the Aged month.
- Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over by Geraldine Brooks – in honor of International Reading Day.
- The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: the Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd – in memory of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980.
- Tripwire by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July
- Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov – to
continuefinish the series started in January.
- My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life by Ryan O’Callaghan. If you have been keeping score, I started this last month.
- The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly – because of the title.
When I look back at August my first thought is what the hell happened? The month went by way too fast. Could the fact that I saw the Grateful Dead, Natalie Merchant (4xs), Trey Anastasio, Sirsy, and Aerosmith all in the same month have anything to do with that? Probably. It was a big month for traveling (Vermont, Connecticut, NYC) and for being alone while Kisa was in Charlotte, Roanoke, Erie, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Colorado. And. And, And! I got some running done! The treadmill was broken for twenty days but in the last eleven days I eked out 12.2 miles. Meh. It’s something. Speaking of something, here are the books:
- African Queen by C.S. Forester
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
- American Chica by Marie Arana
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
- Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson
- Die Trying by Lee Child
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
Early Review cleanup:
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm
- Open Water by Mikael Rosen
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).
Sturm, Izaak. Filling in the Pieces: a Survival Story of the Holocaust. New York: Gefen Publishing, 2019.
Reason read: an Early Review book from LibraryThing.
The expectations put forth to the reader in Rabbi Hier’s introductions are many. There is the promise we won’t be immune to heartbreak and triumph. We will be powerfully reminded of the atrocities of World War II. We will be provided with a clear-eyed view of human behavior throughout this disturbing time. We will have insight into both the world of the perpetrator and survivor alike. We will be reminded that the Holocaust must be remembered and not denied, forgotten, or repeated. We will learn from the author’s persistence to survive. Above all else, we will be touched. All of that is true. Expectations such as these and then-some are met in Sturm’s courageous words.
Introduction by Rabbi Marvin Hier.
Preface by Moish (Mark) Sturm, Izaak’s son.
Favorite element of the book: There is an attention to detail as if history depends on Sturm getting it exact (like the precise year of his birth). Footnotes are plentiful.
Book trivia: the photographs are generous, both in color and black and white.
Confessional: for years and years my senses would avoid anything involving Hitler and the atrocities of World War II. I didn’t want to see, smell, taste, feel, or hear anything about that horrific time. Stories of lamps made from human skin would keep my young imagination reeling as my heart beat out of my chest in pure terror. I have reoccurring dreams of bombs being unceremoniously and carelessly dropped over Monhegan. I still wake in the middle of the night listening to the drone of engines in the sky. Nightmares still creep across my eyelids and I often wake up in a cold sweat thoroughly convinced someone could be coming to take my teeth with pliers at any minute.
Last month (okay, yesterday!) I whined about how I have been feeling uninspired writing this blog. I think it’s because I haven’t really been in touch with what I’ve been reading. None of the books in July jump started my heart into beating just a little faster. “Dull torpor” as Natalie would say in the Maniacs song, Like the Weather. Maybe it comes down to wanting more oomph in my I’mNotSureWhat; meaning I don’t know if what I need or what would fire me up enough to burn down my yesterdays; at least so that they aren’t repeated tomorrow. I’m just not sure.
Hopefully, these books will do something for me:
- African Queen by Cecil Forester – in honor of the movie. Can I be honest? I’ve never seen the movie!
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas (EB/print) – in honor of August being Friendship month.
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (EB/print) by Laurie Colwin – in honor of August being National Grief Month.
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen (EB/print) – in honor of August being Frazen’s birth month.
- Beauty: the Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (EB/print) – in honor of August being Fairy Tale month.
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge (EB/print) – in memory of Florence Nightingale. August is her death month.
- American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Maria Arana (EB/print) – a memoir in honor of August being “Selfish Month.”
- If there is time: What Just Happened by James Gleick – in honor of Back to School month.
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (EB/print) – the penultimate book in the Foundation series.
- Die Trying by Lee child (AB/EB/print) – the second book in the Jack Reacher series.
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm (started in July).
- Open Water by Mikael Sturm.
So. I never posted what I hoped to accomplish reading for July. Whoops and whoops. To tell you the truth, I got busy with other things. What other things I couldn’t tell you. It’s not the thing keeping me up at night. Besides, if I’m truly honest no one reads this blather anyway. In my mind the “you” that I address is really me, myself and moi; our own whacked out sense of conformity. Let’s face it, my reviews are as uninspiring as dry toast carelessly dropped in sand. It’s obvious something needs to change. I just haven’t figured out what that something is or what the much needed change looks like. Not yet at least. I need a who, where, what, why, and how analysis to shake off the same as it ever was. It’ll come to me eventually.
But, enough of that and that and that. Here’s what July looked like for books and why:
- Killing Floor by Lee Child – in honor of New York becoming a state in July (Child lives in New York).
- Alligator by Lisa Moore – in honor of Orangemen Day in Newfoundland.
- Forrest Gump by winston Groom – on honor of the movie of the same name being released in the month of July.
- Aunt Julia and the Script Writer by Mario Vargas Llosa – in honor of July being the busiest month to visit Peru.
- Accidental Man by Iris Murdoch – in honor of Murdoch’s birth month.
- Blood Safari by Leon Meyer – in honor of Meyer’s birth month.
- By the River Piedra I Sat down and Wept by Paulo Coelho – in honor of July being Summer Fling Month.
- Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Yes, I am behind.
- Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson.
- Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. Confessional. Even though there are two more books in the Barsetshire Chronicles I am putting Trollope back on the shelf for a little while. The stories are not interconnected and I am getting bored.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm. I only started this. It will be finished in August.
What startles me as I type this list is I didn’t finish any nonfiction in July. I started the Holocaust memoir but haven’t finished it yet. No nonfiction. Huh.