The Story of My Life by Helen Keller is a beautiful memoir about the power of love, language,...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller is a beautiful memoir about the power of love, language, and learning. It was sad and humbling to hear Helen describe how desperate she was to communicate with people. Since Helen was deaf and blind, she would go into a rage after being so frustrated that no one could understand her. That really struck home with me. In college, I babysat a 5 year old boy who couldn’t talk because he had cerebral palsy. He could answer yes or no to my questions by shaking or nodding his head. There were times when I asked every question I could think of and he would break down in tears of frustration - just like Helen Keller described. It was heartbreaking to see. When the boy I babysat went to school and learned more complex sign language, he lit up. I still remember the first time he was able to tell me a story. He was absolutely glowing with joy. Helen Keller’s story of learning was very touching to me since it similar to the experience that the boy I knew had.
How she was able to learn language was very interesting to read about since she was old to enough to remember the experience of understanding words for the first time. Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, used a method of teaching with Helen that had never been done before. The pedagogy behind how Annie taught language to someone who couldn't hear or see was fascinating. She had to break down and really think about how kids normally learn language and translate it into the senses that Helen had access to. She realized that kids acquire language through imitation and through hearing it all day long every day. So Annie would spell words into Helen's hand all day long about everything they were doing even though Helen didn't know what the words meant yet. Helen learned that words represented the things that she could touch. It was a bittersweet moment when Annie tries to teach Helen what love is and Helen can't understand why her teacher won't show it to her.
...how happy your little Helen was when her teacher explained to her that the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.
-Helen Keller, in a letter written to Rev. Phillips Brooks, June 8, 1891.
Before reading this, I had never realized how important books would be to Helen Keller. They were a huge part of how she experienced a world that she couldn't see or hear. She talked about books as if they were her friends.
I have not shown how much I have depended on books not only for pleasure and for the wisdom they bring to all who read, but also for that knowledge which comes to others through their eyes and their ears. Indeed, books have meant so much more in my education than in that of others ...
- Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Chapter 21
There was a huge list of books that she read. You know me. Of course I wrote them all down.
Books Helen Keller Read
As You Like It By William Shakespeare
Speech on Conciliation with America by Edmund Burke
Life of Samuel Johnson by Thomas Macaulay
Child's History of England by Charles Dickens
The Arabian Nights
The Swiss Family Robinson
The Pilgrim's Progress
Because reading had such an influence on her, she often described things the way that someone could see would. She would describe trees as green even though she had never seen the color green because that's what books described them as. That being said, I noticed that a lot of her descriptions - especially of nature - centered on their scent and feel. Also, I want to write book reviews the way that Helen Keller does.
The "Iliad" is beautiful with all the truth, and grace and simplicity of a wonderfully childlike people while the "Aeneid" is more stately and reserved. It is like a beautiful maiden, who always lived in a palace, surrounded by a magnificent court; while the "Iliad" is like a splendid youth, who has had the earth for his playground.
- Helen Keller, in a letter to Mrs. Laurence Hutton, October 23, 1898
Helen desperately wanted to go to college but practical things made it extremely difficult. She struggled with being able to even take tests since they had to be dictated to her. Books weren't available in braille quickly enough and she would fall behind in classes. Lectures had to be written down in advance for her to follow along. It makes me appreciate not only my education but the technology today that allows equal access to books for people with disabilities. I just wanted to travel back in time and make her books because they were so hard to get in braille! As much as Helen loved books, she hated tests. Like really, really hated them. She describes the feeling of forgetting an answer on a test perfectly.
You are sure it is somewhere in your mind near the top—you saw it there the other day when you were looking up the beginnings of the Reformation. But where is it now? You fish out all manner of odds and ends of knowledge—revolutions, schisms, massacres, systems of government; but Huss—where is he? You are amazed at all the things you know which are not on the examination paper.
- Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Chapter 20
She talks about the administration of the school and how they sometimes unintentionally made things even more difficult for her. But instead of letting it frustrate her, she felt accomplished that not only had she gotten an education but she had overcome the challenges in getting one as well.
Overall, it's an amazing story of overcoming difficult trials and making the best of what is given to us.(less)
I'm trying to read more books from my to-read list and I happened to see Harold and the Purple Crayon at the library. It was on my to-read list only b...moreI'm trying to read more books from my to-read list and I happened to see Harold and the Purple Crayon at the library. It was on my to-read list only because it was mentioned on Gilmore Girls. But my 4 year-old son saw it and wanted to read it with me. So we read it together and he enjoyed it a lot. Which of course means we read it about 5 more times. It is an adorable, creative book with a cute message about imagination and finding home. My review is probably longer than the book itself, but I really wanted to feature it on my blog because the day after I read this book to my son, I found a huge stack of drawings, all in purple, and they are clearly inspired by the book. It was touching to me that a book would stick with him that much. So I decided to share all the drawings he did that I could find. You'll notice in a lot of the drawings that there are two people. The other person is his older brother who he considers his best friend.
I can see why the setting is so important in John Steinbeck's novels. It's the first thing we get to experience in East of Eden. The descriptions that...moreI can see why the setting is so important in John Steinbeck's novels. It's the first thing we get to experience in East of Eden. The descriptions that John Steinbeck writes about the Salinas Valley, where East of Eden is set, made it sound like paradise. I don't know why, but I was completely enchanted when they are digging a well in the valley and they discover shells from the ocean and redwood from an ancient forest that had both been there a long time ago. It gave the setting this beautiful tie to something ancient since this story is a modern version of a Bible story.
I absolutely adore books that are filled with allusions. They feel like buried treasure for those who want to find them. The story is wonderful on it's own, but there's a treasure hunt if you want to go on it. And East of Eden was just brimming with allusions. Some of my favorites that I picked out were:
The Spaniards coming to America and naming everything (kind of like Adam did)
Charles talks about a mark on his forehead (that reminded me of the mark of Cain)
Biblical phrases scattered throughout like "fruit of his loins"
The shady inheritance that keeps getting handed down in the family (that is kind of like Original Sin)
Samuel tells Adam that Cathy was beautiful to him because he built her that way and called her Adam's own creation. (Like Eve being made from Adam's rib)
"They were not pure, but they had a potential of purity, like a soiled white shirt" -pg 216 (reminded me of Christ and the Atonement)
And the ultimate allusion all in one scene - children falling asleep in the dust, the adults are drinking wine while they talk about the Cain and Abel story.
Even the title of the book is an allusion to Cain being punished by God and banished to the land of Nod, which was east of the garden of Eden. I felt like this novel is about how we all live just a little east of perfection.
John Steinbeck has completely mastered the art of showing instead of telling. Nothing is a joy to read more than a story you figure out on your own. Plus I loved how he said things. I think I highlighted half of this book. This quote I found absolutely beautiful:
"They called him a comical genius and carried his stories carefully home, and they wondered at how the stories spilled out on the way, for they never sounded the same repeated in their own kitchens."
- John Steinbeck, East of Eden, pg 10
And this quote is just as funny as it is true:
"The medical profession is unconsciously irritated by lay knowledge."
John Steinbeck, East of Eden, pg 587
One last quote that just leaves me in awe.
"He stepped outside and looked up at the stars swimming in schools through the wind-driven clouds."
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden, pg 526
I loved all the different variations of sibling relationships and father/son relationships that ranged from beautiful and normal to dysfunctional and sad. My favorite relationship was Tom and Dessie's tragic relationship that was kind of an anti-version of Cain and Abel.
And I loved all these characters. There's Cal, who sees the world as it is and fights against evil that he sees and his brother Aron, who tries to run away and hide from the world and the evil he sees there. There's this moral extremism in the characters - Cathy is evil incarnate, Aron is the epitome of goodness and Cal is on the middle road dealing with his own inner struggle and you wonder which path he might end up on.
The big theme in this novel is rejection, how we all deal with it, and how possibly all human problems are caused by it. Aron is crushed when Abra rejects his gift. Cal punishes Abra for liking Aron. And all the characters deal with jealousy in one form or another. As I watched all these characters go through different kinds of rejection, it made me reflect on the rejection I receive and how much unnecessary rejection I deal out.
Cal is by far my favorite character. I loved watching him slowly change when he realizes he has no reason to be so mean. I was glued to the book as I watched Cal go indirectly down the path that Cain did and just hoping that Cal's story would end differently.
East of Eden brought up a point that I hadn't noticed before. We are Cain's children. Cain lived and had children. Abel didn't. And we all have to face rejection like Cain did.
So much of the story revolves around the idea of free choice vs. inheriting a good or evil nature. Evil needs good. For example, Cathy needs to control Adam. But the reverse is oddly not true. Good does not need evil. I love the way that Chapter 34 opens:
A child may ask, "What is the world's story about?" And a grown man or woman may wonder, "What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we're at it, what's the story about?"
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden pg 411
I loved that the children and adults ask the same question. And I loved John Steinbeck's answer - that there is only one story and it's that humans are caught in a net of good and evil.
I found it fascinating that the big turning point in the novel is about a single word - timshel. It's Hebrew for "thou mayest" and it literally changes the story of Cain and Abel into a choice between good and evil. It's lazy and weak to say that you're destined for good or evil. And it's cowardly to run or hide from a choice.
The characters of East of Eden discuss how a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. They come to the conclusion that the Cain and Abel story is about everyone, but I want to add that I think East of Eden is a story about everyone, too. I did not expect to like this book as much as I did especially since I had started it as a teen and put it down because I just didn't get it. I'm glad I waited to read it as an adult. This is the longest and most in-depth book review I have ever written because I just had so much to say and love about East of Eden.
Overall, it was full of amazing characters, beautiful writing, and a hopeful ending. This modern re-telling of Cain and Abel is really about the ultimate human story.
My first impression of Persuasion was that Jane Austen writes some interesting and detailed characters. Right from page one, Sir Walter was my favorit...moreMy first impression of Persuasion was that Jane Austen writes some interesting and detailed characters. Right from page one, Sir Walter was my favorite character. He’s a jerk, yeah, but he’s hilarious. I don’t know that the characters in this book are as modern as they are in say Pride and Prejudice, but the author’s brutal honesty, especially about the less appealing characters, is always entertaining. The whole story made me really think about how much other people influence our lives and whether or not that is always a good thing.
And can Jane Austen write a romance. The flirting, the dashing hero that you want but can’t have, and that beautiful love letter! I do have to say that there was one major climactic scene that just felt cheesy to me. Oh the horror! Other than that, it was refreshing and fun to read a Jane Austen novel that I didn’t even know existed until a few years ago.
I read this book mainly because it was talked about a lot in Eclipse. I was shocked by how dark and Gothic it was. I can’t imagine what people must ha...moreI read this book mainly because it was talked about a lot in Eclipse. I was shocked by how dark and Gothic it was. I can’t imagine what people must have thought when it was published. If I could pick two words to describe Wuthering Heights it would be “passionate” and “bizarre.” I’ve never read anything like it. I knew as I was reading it that I wasn’t supposed to like Cathy. She has a passionate temper that was very unlikeable and yet I couldn’t hate her. In fact, I related to her in a lot of strange ways. I kind of agree with Edward Cullen’s assessment of the book that it’s not a love story but a hate story. The ending was what made me like this book. A lot of the characters are run madly by their passions and I thought for sure the ending would be nothing but a disaster. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. If Eclipse has made you curious as to what happens in this book, give it a try. You might actually like it.
The first Cathy is hard for me to dislike. The bad things about her are hard for me to denounce without feeling like a hypocrite. I thought it was a discussion about all the bad reasons that people get married. Bad reasons the characters get married
Edgar - wants to change her bad temper, she's pretty, he feels sorry for her (?) Catherine Earnshaw - social standing, wealth and comfort Heathcliff-revenge Isabella - infatuation Linton-threats Catherine Linton- coersion
The one good marriage is Hearton and Catherine - forgiveness
Still, it was endearing that Cathy (the first) didn't even think that her love for Heathcliff would be threatened by marriage to someone else. It showed that people get married for lots of reasons besides love.(less)
This is the third time I’ve read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I really enjoyed reading this along with Pottermore. Pottermore incorporates a...moreThis is the third time I’ve read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I really enjoyed reading this along with Pottermore. Pottermore incorporates a lot of the details mentioned in the story. It was fun to pay attention to the little details this time since I know the story so well. I also liked reading the bonus material she wrote on Pottermore – it adds a lot to the story. I don’t know if I realized this before, but J.K. Rowling is excellent at showing and not telling. For example: “[Mr. Dursley] hummed “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” and as he worked, jumped at small noises.” She doesn’t have to say that he’s starting to lose it because I’ve decided that for myself. The books have so many fun characters that aren’t in the movies. I love how optimistic and humble Harry is. I also like how light-hearted and quirky the books are. The movies tend to focus on the darker aspects of the story. I never get tired of reading these books.
It was more graphic and violent than I thought it would be. Dickens writes the best characters I've ever read. Even the minor characters have personal...moreIt was more graphic and violent than I thought it would be. Dickens writes the best characters I've ever read. Even the minor characters have personalities and flaws. Oliver Twist was a social satire criticizes Victorian England. Some of his criticisms of society could still apply today. August Rush, the movie, was a great retelling of Oliver Twist and now that I've read it, I can see even more similarities. Oliver Twist was not really a page turner, but it was the easiest novel of his that I've read yet. The ending felt a little contrived to me. I can see why this novel was shocking at the time it was published. Dickens sheds light on things that people just didn't like talking about back then. Dickens has this way or narrating that makes you feel so connected to the characters and makes you care about them a lot.